Untranslatable Expressions

Every language has untranslatable words and expressions.

Today’s untranslatable expression is:

“Back-seat driver”

I’m not sure if it’s a British expression.  (Americans, do you use the same expression?)

What does “back-seat driver” actually mean?   Let’s turn to www.urbandictionary.com.

1. A passenger in the back seat of the car who criticises the driver.

2. Anyone who offers unwanted advice.

Two definitions, the first of which is literal, the second is somewhat figurative, and the one that is more frequently used in British English.

I am sometimes asked what the role of church warden is like.  To ex-military people, I tend to explain thus:

It’s a bit like being RSM in a regiment.
To “civvies,” I tend to explain thus:
It’s a bit like being a shop steward.
One of the key tasks of church warden is to deal with the back-seat driver, who has an opinion and “expertise” on most things everything within church.

22:30 on Saturday evening: Beep-beep.  WhatsApp message from Back-Seat Driver (BSD).

“The church website is down for maintenance.  Why?”
My reply:
“Probably because our webmaster is doing some updates.”
Beep-beep.  BSD again:
“But why’s he doing maintenance work on a Saturday evening?”
My reply:
“Because he’s doing it in his spare time, and he’s doing it for free.”
Beep-beep.  It’s now 22:39.  BSD yet again:
“When’s the new-look church website going to be ready?”
Point to note: I am not a fiery redhead, but by now, I was on the verge of acting true to stereotype.  Instead, I remembered that useful phrase from my interrogator course all those years ago.  I decided to “ICATQ” him.
“I cannot answer that question.”
Beep-beep.  BSD yet yet yet again:
“Why not?  You said you were aiming to get the website up and running this month.”
(Ladies, when I use the word “aim,” I mean it in the same sense that men “aim” for the toilet bowl.  It’s very, very approximate.  You get the picture now, don’t you?)

My reply:

“I cannot answer that question.”
I think by 22:47, BSD had got the message.  Literally and figuratively.  Time for me to switch mobile phone off for the night. 

BSD has a habit of advising others on how it should be done better.  In fact, he gives more “on-the-spot guidance” than Kim Jong-un, President of North Korea.

kim
Some “on-the-spot guidance” from BSD…
  • We should use fresh milk instead of UHT milk  for post-service refreshments.
    • “Fine.  Then you go buy some…  What’s that you say?  You don’t have the time?”
  • We should brew decaffeinated coffee as well as caffeinated coffee.
    • Guess what… “Fine.  Then you go buy some…  What’s that you say?  You don’t have the time?”
  • We should provide lactose-free milk in case some visitors are allergic to ordinary milk.
    • “Fine.  Then you go buy some…  Oh, what’s that you say?  You don’t know where you can buy some?”
  • We should update the website to enable the church to do a live broadcast of the Sunday sermon.
    • “Good idea.  Hey, why don’t you do the business analysis, you write the requirements, you meet with the chaplain and the webmaster, you test it, and you launch that new functionality?  What’s that you say?  You don’t have the time or the technical expertise?  Oh, just fancy that.”
  • We should head down to the local train station and talk to people about Christianity.
    • “What a brilliant suggestion.  Many thanks for that.  Tell you what.  You design and print out a load of leaflets, you get yourself over there, you go up to people and speak to them in German… oh, you don’t speak German, eh?”

“We” in this context, in fact, means:

Anybody except for me.

The back-seat driver.  Please, please, please pray for those who have to deal with them…

Have a guidance-free day, won’t you!


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2 thoughts on “Untranslatable Expressions

  1. I can relate to this. I live in a street where we have to manage our own Estate. It’s an entire road of Anyone But Me.

    • Similarly…

      The people that complain about the village shop closing are also the same people who have never bothered shopping there for years…

      The people who complain of there being no mobile phone reception in their village, then protest when O2 etc, announce plans to place a mobile phone mast inside the village church tower.

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