Posts tagged ‘compliments’

March 16, 2011

Backhanded compliment

A backhanded compliment is nothing you necessarily want to get: it is a compliment that also insults at the same time or saying it the other way around: an insult that masquerades as a compliment.

A backhanded compliment might first fool you into thinking you received a real compliment but it is a deliberate and rather subtle way to disguise an insult.  Sometimes backhanded compliments are not intentional but generally the term applies to the intentional use of a disguised insult.

Here are a few examples:

Classical backhanded compliment, pic:

“You are sure smarter than you look.”

“I love you new haircut, it slims your face a lot.”

“Long skirts look good on you, they hide your calves.”

“You drive very well, for a woman.”

“Your son is more handsome than I would have expected.

In each case there is a compliment that immediately gets negated by an implied criticism, namely that a person is stupid, her face is too wide or her legs to thick, she can’t drive or his parents are ugly.

Another term meaning the same thing is left-handed compliment.  Traditional the left hand has had sinister connotations and therefore a left-handed compliment is one that is devious.

Not a very politically correct expression now that we don’t discriminate against “lefties” anymore.

March 8, 2011

White lie

A white lie is a little lie, a harmless lie, a lie that does not hurt anybody – at least not really.  In fact, a white lie is something you tell somebody to make that person feel better or avoid hurting him or her.

Cartoon called the G-20's big white lie, pic:

So why is it called a white lie?  “White” in western tradition represents good whereas black represents evil.  Along those lines a white lie lacks evil intent, a black lie – the black, however, is normally omitted as we don’t bother to specify that lies are inherently evil – is evil or malevolent.

Interestingly, the same thing is called  mentira blanca which also means white lie, in Spanish.  In German however, it is an “emergency lie” which conveys the message quite nicely as well.

A very common example of a white lie brings us back to fishing for compliments:

“Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”

“No sweetheart, you look terrific.”

March 7, 2011


Nice little phrase for a common behavior: fishing for compliments.

If  you are fishing for a compliment you are saying something that virtually forces – or at least very strongly encourages – somebody else to make you a compliment.

Do my thighs look fat in this dress? pic: myhouseholdcapers.

Fishing for compliments is very frequent and not just in teenage girls.  It is generally thought of as a typical female behavior, but men are’t immune to it either.  In case you want to learn how to do it right, here is a guide.

And here are some examples of compliment fishing:

Woman:  “Honey, how do I look in this dress?  I think my butt looks really fat in it!”

Man: “Darling, what are you talking about, your butt looks spectacular in this dress. ”


Man: “Sweetie, I think I  am getting a bald spot up here!”

Woman: “No dear, absolutely not, your hair is as thick as it was the day I met you 25 years ago.”

December 6, 2010

Confusing words, cont.

Today’s confusing words are different by just one letter which, but that  makes quite a difference.

So, here we are: Compliment and complement

Not quite the original idea of compliment! Pic:

Compliment as a noun means a nice remark, an expression of praise.  Something positive you say about somebody’s accomplishment, performance, outfit, hairdo, taste, or such like.  As a verb it means to make such a positive, praising remark.

Girl to girlfriend: “He said I looked radiant and gorgeous, what a nice compliment!”

The word complement is much less frequently used.  It is often used as a verb to mean to complete, make better, add something to something else.

“Jill and Jake complement each other, she is a brilliant strategic thinker and he is very good executing plans.  That’s why their business has been so successful.”

Used as a noun, often in connection with the word full, a “full complement”, means a full number of something needed to make something else complete.

“The camera comes with the whole suite of photo editing software.”

October 28, 2010

Compliments, woman to woman

One thing Americans do frequently  which is a lot less common in Europe is making compliments.  Even total strangers get complimented on occasion.  These are mostly woman-to-woman compliments, a type of compliments pretty much unknown to many Europeans.

In these cases the compliment is normally for a “thing” like a nice purse or scarf, a suit, maybe haircut not for the person as a whole.  I have a green briefcase which I use for meetings and conferences and I have had many women compliment that particular accessory with words like “I love your briefcase”, “What a terrific color!” or “That’s so great, where did you buy it?” I mostly happens in the ladies’ bathroom when we are all standing in front of the mirror reapplying lipstick.

That purse is so cute! © Budda |

Friends or acquaintances will often go further and say things like  “You look wonderful today”, “Oh my God, you lost so much weight, you look great!”

Being generous with compliments is actually a very nice thing once you are used to it.  In the beginning it confused me, I didn’t know why people would bother but it is really quite a mood booster if some stranger looks at you and says something nice and flattering.  It might not be the most profound thing ever said to you but it doesn’t matter, it brightens the day a bit.

My husband tells me that guys don’t do that or only on the rarest of occasions.  Oh well, their loss.