Disclaimer: this article contains a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour that’s not to be taken seriously. And if I know anything about the internet, there are people out there who will take this tongue-in-cheek humour the wrong way. Readers are advised to concentrate on enjoying the article, rather than seeing it as a judgemental critique of humankind!


If you’re anything like me- particularly the bit about being on the autism spectrum- you may have trouble getting hints. You may prefer (and even naturally expect) people to:

  1. Say what they mean
  2. Mean what they say.

Unfortunately, the general population has a peculiar tradition of using words that don’t match their thoughts. Sometimes they are even known to say the complete opposite of what they mean (even in a non-sarcastic sense), with the expectation on us to interpret the thoughts in their head, rather than the words from their mouth.


But worry no more! Today I bring you a short translation project, which should help some of you navigate the (figurative) waters of people’s non-literal words.


So, here we go!

(2020 edit- these pictures were made in 2015, back when I used puzzle pieces in ANW’s logo. Trust me, I know better now.)

1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


2019 edit– important note about #26. In the time this article’s been up, a few followers have kindly given me some insight into why this question is asked. Often it’s about reassurance rather than a literal question- the person wearing the dress may believe it looks pretty enough, but feel nervous about what everyone else is going to think. Reassurance from a second person often gives them the confidence they need to wear it comfortably in public.


No doubt there are a hundred more little hints that I missed. Feel free to share them in the comments!

Chris Bonnello / Captain Quirk


Are you tired of characters with special needs being tokenised and based on stereotypes, or being the victims rather than the heroes? This novel series may interest you!

Underdogs, a near-future dystopia series where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is a character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, balancing intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.

Book one can be found here:

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Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window).
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28 Responses

  1. Ben

    To be honest, some of the translations have more subtext than the original phrases. I know it’s meant to be funny, but it verges on judgmental and ranty.

    • CaptainQuirk

      Reading it back, I see your point- some may take it that way. (Also, it’s difficult to write a tongue-in-cheek humorous article when most of your others are there to make serious points.) Added a disclaimer to the top. 🙂 Thanks.

      • Ben

        Hey cheers for the reply Captain! I thought I would share how I was feeling at the time, it’s all meant with the best intentions. Some of us struggle with jokes as you well know 🙂

    • GROITT76543234

      quite a lot of these are nasty derisive psychopathic manipulation tactics….i do hope you realise that, most people will hint very differently from the double double inferrences and guilt tripping exemplified here..
      last potato?
      if yu want it …do not offer it to me.
      if you hide that in your voice??
      but secretly want it but are being generous for its own sake? tough shit if i want it, thats generosity for you.. you offered it..
      most decent people dont fuck around like that and do you want the last potato may well mean “i really want to eat the last potato but im a greedy bastard polease eat it first”
      youve got to learn prosody and inferrrence and psychopaths,,or just kick the facts , but learn to read the facts of motivation and the variation and epth therein? you can tear up this bullshiut ,,its as misleading as it is is missing the point.
      if yur hanging round with passive aggressive guilt tripping fucks who will go to the lengths f conning yu they ae kind to get a potato? when they could simply offer yu half?
      gtf away from whoever told yu they meant that.
      do i have to do the whole list??

  2. Hilary

    #26 I am pretty certain I look fat in this, but I love wearing it. I need you to tell me I don’t look fat to ease my anxiety.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the above points, but then I grew up with a brother who took everything at face value. Whether he was slightly autistic we shall never know.

    • pianetavivo

      God knows why he did not set that “translation”, not from the beginning, nor after your comment.

  3. Jessica

    I love this. As a neuro typical, even I am wondering how on earth people learn these sub texts and get along in life. On the one hand, My Aspie boy may well glide through life oblivious yet mildly confused at best!

  4. Stephanie

    This is BRILLIANT! I only wish someone would’ve given me these translations 30 years ago, thank you! (And by that, I mean all of those words just as written) 🙂

  5. Amy

    “She’s so naive…” which, in my experience, has come to mean, “She doesn’t get what we’re talking about, even though we’re not telling her directly at all, so it must be her.” I got that back in school all the time, and I still hear similar in the “adult” world today sometimes. If I don’t immediately get a joke/concept/play on words/whatever, it’s too often assumed it’s because I’m overall unable understand or I’m dense. In reality, JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WHEN I ASK AND DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE I’M INSANE FOR NOT GETTING YOUR JOKE. It’s not that hard, and this one has been a real pet peeve with my customers at work. (I work at Starbucks, so I see a rather eclectic crowd every day, but this is something that happens way too often in my daily interactions. I just want to hang a sign or something on my register or espresso machine to the tune of, “I have ASD; don’t be a jerk about it.”)

  6. Eileen

    Love all of these and think/feel they are right on target and not a problem for just some people….probably 90 % of men! 🙂

      • Kat

        I view at least half of the non-straightforward NT statements above as Feminine remarks. In my view, the point Eileen makes is astute, and speaks more to patriarchal society’s conditioning of women. In many cultures, women are conditioned from birth to avoid straightforward questions or statements- women being assertive (ie, direct wording) tis more than not upsetting to NT men, who subconciously view this type of blunt woman as taking too much power or assertiveness for herself. However, these NT men will usually deny that ego or insecurity in their gender or personal power is is the etiology of their frustration, and instead state (in a NON-straightforward and not honest way) that they are frustrated with said women because they are unnattractive, shrill, bitches, power-hungry, intolerable, unkind, strange, or generally unpleasant as a person. They usually adamantly deny that their feeling upset is in any way attributable to sexist mindsets. (I do not blame men 100%, as they too are conditioned to base their gender-security on how deferential women are to them.)

  7. Tim

    I know what the answer to number 26 is, and it’s pretty much the same answer to the question “Does my bum look big in this?” I was told the answer by a woman a long time ago. I’m not going to write the exact word for word answer she told me, but basically a woman wants to know that you find her sexy and gorgeous, and that is really all she’s asking. 🙂

    • Luca

      Tim, what if it’s not a woman you are dating? Maybe just a friend or even a relative what do they mean? ?

      • Tim

        Well that’s a question I can’t answer, lol, as it’s definitely not appropriate to use the one that woman gave me 🙂

  8. NetEditor

    I have difficulty the other way round, where I completely mean what I say but the other (typically NT) person *thinks* I am employing their double-speak. If I ask how you are, I want to know how you are. If I think something tastes amazing I will say that and mean it. People think I am weird for being too interested or sarcastic and over the top. I have one particular acquaintance who ties herself up in knots wondering what I REALLY meant when I said something. It wears me down so much I avoid her. However my daughter was giggling as we read this. I always say “I’ll be there in a minute” and she diligently counts to 60 then scolds me for lying! And she’s meant to be the one in the family who isn’t autistic 😀

    • Kat

      thank you for sharing this view. I felt alone in my view but it matches yours completely <3 (re: NTs often think I am employing their double-speak, which had led to small infractions all the way up to huge heartbreak on my part due to the extreme misunderstandings.) I am so sad and frustrated when I am not taken at my word (and it is SO often.) I think my feminine / female presentation adds to people thinking I do not mean what I say, etc…women are expected to sugarcoat language.

    • Janna

      I completely agree with this. I’m NT, but saying what I mean was a huge value instilled in me. It saddens me how many people think I’m being bitchy when in fact I’m just complimenting someone. Saddens me because of how they then see me, and also because it seems very few people give out random compliments.
      It’s taken my husband a few years, but he has now learned if I say I’m fine, I really am fine, and if I ask if a dress makes me look fat, I actually want to know (but I appreciate that’s very unusual!).

  9. Simrad

    I can’t believe how glad I am to have read this. My entire life, I’ve been taking #4 and #5 too literally and replied with essays. I’ve been wondering though, how should I respond to those two without sounding like an idiot – anymore?

    • CaptainQuirk

      lol, that was me too for a long while!
      I guess it depends on your relationship with the person. If it’s someone who hardly know or barely see, it’s sometimes better to play along with the script: “Hi, how are you?” / “Fine thanks, and you?” / “Yeah, not bad thanks”.
      If it’s someone you’re close to, and you’ve got something on your mind, answer honestly. During the times when you’re giving an actual answer, try to keep it a brief answer if at all possible. That way you give a real answer, but the other person doesn’t get overwhelmed (and if they want further details, they’re able to ask for more).
      Hope this helps! 🙂

      • Eleanor

        The only person who 2ho actually wants to know how you are, in general, is your doctor. No one else cares, it’s just a way greeting. “Hello” and “hello how are you” are both basically the same thing a greeting or a greeting combined with a conversation starter, a means of acknowledging another person’s existence.

      • BobBobbington

        I like to think that when I respond in full, I’m training people not to ask if they don’t want to know. No evidence to say if it’s working. I simply don’t want to think about social interactions any harder than I do. It’s very stressful.

  10. Ellen

    One more that NT people are fond of:

    “I’m too busy” / “I don’t have time.” (translation: “I don’t want to.”)

    And in addition to hinting instead of making direct statements, many NTs often assume that someone else is hinting when it’s really just a comment or innocent observation. Assuming what another person is thinking is a misunderstanding waiting to happen!

  11. Eleanor Bronway

    “Do I look fat in this?” “Does my bum look big in this?” Two questions to which the correct is always ” No, you look beautiful.” Said with sincerity. All men, and some women, need to learn this response. For one thing, no one should feel negatively about their body, no matter what its shape and for another, to say “yes” would be both unkind and a bit heartless. Underlying that yes is the statement that the person’s body is not acceptable and it could lead to all manner of insecurity and heartbreak.


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