Arabic has an idiomatic expression which translates as "Far away from you". Is there something similar in English?

If something low or contemptible is cited the expression usually immediately follows it in a sentence, to diminish the ignobility, impudence and lowliness in it or believed to be in it.

For example: "I was walking the other day and I stepped in some dog mess, far away from you," then one proceeds. It's a sign of done propriety in Arabic. A reply would be something like 'All bad/lowliness away from you'.

God dignify you (listener), is also used.

Is there some similar distancing idiom used in English?

  • I hope I've clarified what's being asked about here.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 9:52
  • 2
    "Pardon my French" comes to minds. "Excuse my language".. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 10:15
  • @151577 "I don't mean to hurt your feelings [talking that way]"
    – Elian
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 10:47
  • I think in English this would be done as an aside preceding the "low" term: "...some (excuse me) dog mess" or "...some -- please excuse me -- dog mess". A reply would be something like, "No offense taken."
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 10:56
  • You may translate the expression as "with due respect".
    – Graffito
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


Maybe it's not an exact match, but in English there's God (or Heaven) forbid:

Used to express a fervent wish that something does not happen:
-If, God forbid, a close family member of yours were killed...

This expression can be extended with that... (as stated in Oxford Idioms Dictionary):

-If you are to succeed, and God forbid that you should fail, you must know and understand the problems you confront.
(This example is from a search in COCA)

Another possible translation would be perish the thought:

Used, often ironically, to show that one finds a suggestion or idea completely ridiculous or unwelcome:
-But perish the thought that you should actually cut your pay.
-Perish the thought something should happen to me. Should it, however, my training, experience, and, most importandy, client preferences and requirements won't be lost.
(The second example is from a search in COCA)

So your sentence would become:

  • I was walking the other day and I stepped in some dog mess, God forbid/perish the thought (that) this should happen to you, ...
  • 1
    I think your answer is closer to the context than that of Jim Reynolds. +1)
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 14:08

In US and "Western" English speaking "mainstream" culture, we would not normally feel a need to communicate that idea of politeness, concern, or respect explicitly with language. We would most likely trust that our listener knows we don't connect the potentially offensive thing or idea with them. We would typically not want to call more attention to it, and would probably continue talking and behaving normally to show our feelings toward the listener. This opinion is based on my experience.

If a particular situation calls for it, we could probably add the phrase "no offense/no offense intended" or perhaps "sorry to have to refer to such a thing" to show that we don't want to cause bad feelings when saying something potentially unpleasant or insulting. If any of the participants is Arab or from another high-context culture, like East Asian cultures, we might be smart or feel more comfortable adding such a phrase. The "Western" cultures tend to insult people directly rather than through subtle or indirect references, so we will worry less about the possibility of someone interpreting an indirect reference as an insult.

Beyond that, we can just try to communicate the idea with language such as "Forgive me for mentioning such a course (or "vulgar") thing/idea while talking with such a lovely/charming/pleasant/respectable person such as yourself", although that is formal language.

It will be interesting to see if some Arab person who lives in or has lots of experience with English-speaking places or situation has something to share about this. It might also be useful to find some kind of Arab social or cultural organization in an English speaking place and see if someone there has a useful response. You might search online or Facebook for something like "Arab American News", "Arab American Institute", etc., and establish contact.

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