DisRespect: the Intricacies of the Complimensult

The English language is an interesting tool of communication. Of course, there are a number of (umf...) posts about my love affair with it, but I find it fascinating how many ways there are to say what one wants to say...and more importantly, how many ways these things can be interpreted. What might sound like the most decadent flattery to one person might be an insult worthy of pistols at dawn to another, and it's all due to the precise word choice of the speaker.

In fact, a sufficiently skilled wordbender can imbue any meaning he likes into a given sentence, especially in that insincere but necessary area of human interaction known as "being nice". Being nice often means keeping one's true opinions locked deep inside one's brain cavity, but for the advanced user of English, saying exactly what's on your mind can be a pretty simple, inoffensive process. To that end, below are a few examples of how you can more or less say somebody totally sucks in a way that might make them wholeheartedly agree with you:

-Start a sentence with "With all due respect": An old standby backhanded compliment, the phrase implies that the person on the receiving end of the sentence is worthy of reverence. However, the trick lies in the "all due" part. Since it's never explicitly stated how much respect is due, and this estimation is completely on the part of the speaker, the amount due in their opinion could be anywhere from "the highest order possible" to "absolutely none". It's like those work-from-home ads that say you can make "up to" $5,000 a week, but don't mention that it will likely be far, far less than that.

-Call them an "overachiever": Overachiever sounds like some kind of generic superhero who consistently triumphs over impossible odds to save the day, but it's really a very nice way of saying nobody can figure out just how the fuck you're in the position you are with your limited skill set. Speaking of which...

-"Limited": is also a word that's far more hurtful than it seems. Everything has a limit. The traveling velocity of vehicles is limited on most roads. Blood alcohol content has a limit (well, I guess it technically doesn't, but going over a certain line will ensure that your next shot will be as deadly as a gunshot). Even the speed of light has a limit.

However, all those limits are relatively high...cars on the interstate don't exactly crawl, you can get pretty damn drunk before succumbing to alcohol poisoning (hey, I'm still alive and typing) and light always seems to arrive on time no matter how far it has to travel...say, from that star about 93 million miles from us. However, when people apply this word to other people, the limit is usually very low. In fact, most people they describe as "limited" are a step or two above "handicapped"...especially where the mind is involved.

-Call them "unique": Being unique can be a great thing. Individuality is one of the personality traits I hold closest to my heart, and I value my own more than most. However, being unique and being just awful are not mutually exclusive concepts. Some things are unique for a very good reason, because nobody wants any more to exist. The same theory applies to people. There are certainly those folk who, when they were made, the mold was broken...then burned, buried, and made illegal to reproduce under penalty of death.

-Complement someone's "great personality" for no real reason.
This one can be tricky. Of course, having a great personality is an important facet of being a person of any interest whatsoever, but as anyone who's ever been on (or even discussed the possibility of) a blind date knows, "great personality" is often code for "harder to look at than the sun through binoculars".

The inverse is also widely true...if the only thing people can say about you is that you're attractive, I sincerely hope you enjoy your lone positive trait until around age 30 when it starts to slowly fade. Aren't balanced human beings just great?

-Say they're a credit to their kind:
Isn't saying that someone is a halfway-passable person which surprises you because anyone else like them is a total fucking reject the nicest thing you've ever heard? No? That's why it's on this list. "Good, for a _____" and its' variations also fit in this category.

-"Nice": is also one of the most deceivingly versatile words one can be tagged with. Sure, it can mean "the kind of person who everybody doesn't want to beat senseless upon meeting", but it can also mean "simple" (who doesn't love the simple things in life?), "easily taken advantage of" (nice guys don't tend to place high), or just plain old boring, as in the classic disinterested "that's nice".

Kindness, caring, and other attributes that show you have a non-mineral heart are certainly important, especially in the chilly modern society in which we live...but if the very first thing somebody says about you is that you're "nice", that's likely all they have to say about you. I suspect most people would like more layers to their perceived persona than a Wal-Mart greeter has.

Of course, there are many more ways to give someone a time-bomb compliment (one that will only explode into something negative much later when they've had time to think about what was said and the context thereof), but those are some of the most common. It's said that diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in a manner that makes them look forward to the trip...if you too can master these and other verbal weapons, you'll have the diplomatic immunity to say whatever the fuck you want with minimal consequences. It's just like being funny, only more devious.


Janene said...

Ha ha! What a unique post, AJ. You're a credit to your kind!

KayBee said...

AJ, I find you fascinating (one of my personal favorites). Digging the app, by the way. It makes my shiny new phone smile.

captNaj said...

@Anon: Thank you for the viewing my digital pencil markings! Your visit is appreciate, and I will remember your most honorable comment when friends and family request information about all varieties of cheap designer product! You are the really good bye!

@e-mommy: lol thanks, I certainly do try.

@KayBee- Haven't seen you around here before, so officially welcome to umf! Thanks for the complimentary words...too many of those and I'll have to buy a new hat for my head, but that's a risk I'm willing to take lol...seriously, defintiely appreciate you checking out the post, let alone actually enjoying it.

Oh, you got the app too? Glad to hear you're feeling it, I put a little work into that. Now that I know actual people have it, I'll do a better job of updating all the features haha...anyway, thanks for the support! It means a lot, even from the shadows.

Rum-Punch Drunk said...

What can I say now, you've got it all covered. Every word can be twisted to make it mean whatever you want it to, and now I have to be even more careful due to your post. But what's even better, is the fact that I'm going to be listening to every word that is being said to me. This will determine whether I lunge full force at the speaker or take the compliment with a smile.
Brilliant post, and I mean brilliant :)

melaniejeanjuneau said...

brilliant-funny but brilliantly funny.

captNaj said...

@Rum-Punch Drunk: See, my powers can be used for good too lol

@melaniejeanjuneau- I don't think I've seen you around here before...welcome to umf! Thanks for the compliments too, hope to see you back for more :)