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What's the meaning of the expression "short circuit" in the text bellow?

During a time when our collective national identity continues to be called into question, excruciating politeness might well be the last bastion of Great British behaviour.

For the most part, this is something to be celebrated — there’s something undeniably heart-warming about watching someone apologise profusely as someone else runs over their feet with a suitcase, or utter a “thank you” to the ATM that has just produced their cash.

However, when it comes to making a complaint in a restaurant, our national propensity for politeness seems to short circuit. (source)

I'm also in doubt about the expression "as someone runs over their feet with a suitcase". Should it be literally translated or does it has some kind of figurative meaning?

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there’s something undeniably heart-warming about watching someone apologise profusely as someone else runs over their feet with a suitcase

The phrase "someone else runs over their feet with a suitcase" just means what it says literally: a person's suitcase bumps, hits, or rolls over another person's feet. And this sentence describes a situation where that person apologize profusely to the other person for the suitcase causing discomfort to their feet.

Short circuit here borrows from its literal meaning of a piece of electrical equipment having a short circuit and thus malfunctioning. In this passage it refers to people unable to react in the best way socially.

However, when it comes to making a complaint in a restaurant, our national propensity for politeness seems to short circuit.

It means that when it comes to making a complaint in a restaurant a lot of British people don't know how to do it in a polite/socially elegant way.

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    The first part about a suitcase actually says that the person who's feet were run over is the one apologizing. The article is saying they are so polite that they will apologize even when they are the victim. – windblade Jun 12 at 7:28
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To short circuit here is something like 'to zero out', to vanish - by analogy with electricity, where voltage turns into zero at short circuiting. The other phrase has its literal meaning.

  • Thank you a lot, Eddie and Alex, for helping me with this one. – Itamar Jun 9 at 20:36

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