Most English conversations will inwolve at least some degree of banter,teasing,irony,understatement,humorous self-deprecation,mockery or just silliness.The English may not always be joking,but they are always in a state of readiness for humour.
Understatement is a form of irony,rather than a distinct and separate type of humour.The reasons for English people’s prolific understating are not hard to discover:their strict prohibitions on earnestness,gushing,emoting and boasting require almost constant use of understatement.Rather than risk exhibiting any hint of forbidden solemnity,unseemly emotion or excessive zeal,they go to the opposite extreme and feign dry,deadpan indifference.For example,
*a debilitating and painful chronic illness>a bit of a nuisance
*a truly horrific experience>not very pleasant;’Well,not exactly what I would have chosen’
*a sight of breathtaking beauty>quite pretty
*an outstanding performance or achievement>not bad
*an act of abominable cruelty>not vey\ry friendly
*an unforgivably stupid misjudgement>not very clever
*the Antarctic>rather cold
*the Sahara>a bit too hot for my taste
Any exceptionally delightful object,person of event,which in othr cultures would warrant streams of superlatives,is pretty much covered by ‘nice’,or,if they wish to express more ardent approval,’very nice’.English understatement ‘comes naturally’ because it is deeply ingrained in the English culture,part of the English psyche.