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A little trouble

Posted by Henry on May 27, 2004

In Reply to: "Not Too Bad" means good? posted by Brian from Shawnee on May 27, 2004

: : : : Hi,
: : : : I have a confusion with a phrase " Not too Bad" heavily used by my peer in the office. English is his second language as mine but he says that when he uses this it mean good. I have a different opinion I think this means he is nott that bad, but still BAD????

: : : : Can anyone please let me know what exatly it means when one says " I am not too bad!"

: : : : Thanks and Regards,
: : : : Khan

: : : to me, a native English speaker, it implies something marginally better than 'bad'; something that is 'reasonable', 'up to the job', but not much more than that - just about OK, or very slightly better.

: : It depends on how it is said. "Not too bad!" with a tone of admiration could mean "very good."

: If somebody told me my work was "not too bad", meaning "good" by their tone of admiration, I might take it as condescending, or that their expectations were not very high to begin with. I'd prefer "not too shabby", which I think is more genuine.

The English are notorious for understatement. Not too bad would commonly mean very good. This habit can lead to confusion with other English-speaking people. In the Second World War, a party of soldiers were heavily outnumbered and reported that they were "in a little trouble". The message was received by an American radio operator who took it literally and did not recognise their need for assistance.