This was a funny scene in my favorite show (Sherlock) that I don't get it. What does the grandma means? enter image description here

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    what do you think it means?
    – JMP
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 7:32
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    The default/idiomatic meaning of "Would you like a cup of tea?'' / "... a piece of cake?" etc is "Can I get you a cup of tea?" etc – a friendly offer to make and/or supply same. Obviously, Mycroft is here understandably assuming this meaning. But the literal meaning is sometimes applied for either comic or rather contemptuous (here, both) effect. Mrs Hudson has a history on Sherlock of only going above and beyond her duties as landlady to those of housekeeper when it suits her (except in the episode set largely in the Victorian era), so this is the latest episode in a mild running joke. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 7:46
  • She's not a grandma (well, maybe she is, but I don't think it's ever mentioned); she's a landlady. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


Would you like a cup of teas means "if you like, I would get it for you." And the next sentence about kettle means "if you like, go get it yourself, kettle is on the table" which is not polite and offensive.

  • Yes, you are quite correct in pointing out that the retort would be impolite in a real situation but this could be made less so by prefixing it with an informal invitation to "Make yourself at home. The kettle's over there." Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 9:56
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    Intonation is also important. I haven't watched, so I don't know. Even phrase "Make yourself at home. The kettle's over there." may be very offensive with certain intonation. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 10:02

For additional Sherlock-specific context, Mrs. Hudson keeps insisting to John and Sherlock that she is not their housekeeper, but often prepares food and tea for them anyway because she is fond of them. "Would you like a cup of tea?" implies that she is willing to bring Mycroft a cup of tea as well, which he readily accepts -- remember that Mycroft is a wealthy, powerful man, and is used to being served by people working for him. Her curt response -- "The kettle's over there" -- tells him that she is not willing to serve him, and invites him to serve himself if he wants. Apart from this being her way of reminding Mycroft that she's not a housekeeper, this is also her way of telling Mycroft that she is angry with him for withholding some information from Sherlock (this was revealed in the previous scene). So, she's showing her anger with him, but isn't being rude about it -- they both understand that she'll forgive him eventually, but not yet.

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