Language is a funny thing.
We've all heard that if we don't have anything nice to say, then we shouldn't say anything at all. But sometimes, it's hard to resist being a smart mouth. Enter backhanded compliments, the art of playing with words and phrases to disguise insults as praises. Backhanded compliments can go 50/50, either the receiver will walk away feeling good about themselves, or be quick enough to catch the insincerity.
Redditor u/tac0l0v3r gave us an arsenal of backhanded complments to use, when they asked... "What are some insults that sound like a compliment until you think about it?"
Like You Do.Giphy
"I wish I could [wear/do/say] whatever I wanted without caring what people are gonna say, like you do."
You have a face for radio.
A face for radio, a voice for newspaper and the writing ability of a TV news anchor.
No matter what they are wearing: "Oh wow I love your pajamas."
Had that from my dad once. We were going out and he asked when I was going to change out of my pajamas but I was already dressed.
Alternatively, "you have a voice for space travel."
And a voice for closed caption.
You're not as stupid as you look.
I remember someone that told me: oh I though you were dumb, and I was like, thank you?
I'm glad someone said this one! Similarly, describing things like fashion choices as "brave."
Apparently saying "Your voice doesn't match your face" can be offensive.
Or better "I'm not as dumb as you look."
"love your confidence!" or "I wouldn't have the confidence to do that." both of these sound supportive, but can imply that the person with "confidence" shouldn't be confident in what they are doing, wearing, etc. in both cases it implies that the speaker that the speaker would lack confidence with the thing in question, and comes off as an "I could never, but go you," at best and an "I wouldn't if i were you," at worst.
I usually see this when it comes to plus sized women.
The F Way.
The F Troop classic "I don't know why everyone says your dumb."
But you're half as stupid as you sound right now 😜.
To you all....
I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
Wait.... this is supposed to be an insult?
I hated this compliment as a kid. They said I was pretty for a dark skinned girl.
That's less subtle and more hurtful.
I literally had one like this on a drawing I did, it was a very quick drawing of Ian Curtis. I don't really draw realistic people much, so this was very hard but I thought it looked dope compared to other realistic drawings I've done. I get a comment which reads;
"Aww that's good not the best drawing but without saying anything you could definitely tell its Ian Curtis because it's on a JD page ppl will know but iff it wasn't they would still know great pic 👍💙"
I replied with a half-hearted thanks and left it.
A favorite among my coworkers seems to be, "I don't care what everyone else says about you, you're alright in my book!"
You can make just about any compliment sound pretty backhanded by adding the word actually.
Wow that's actually good advice.
You're actually pretty nice.
You've actually done a good job.
I am jealous of all the people that haven't met you yet.
That doesn't really sound like a compliment though.
"You're immune to zombies"
This is a compliment until you think about it: Zombies want your brain, and if you're immune to zombies, it means you don't have one.
No one ever says wow in a meaningful way, so "Wow you actually did it" or "Wow you did that quickly". Those bastards are never sincere. Saying it sarcastically to someone you hate is fine and I do it loads, it's when you try and be nice but screw it up everytime.
"I'll see you later."
"Not if I see you first."
Very Johnny DeppGiphy
I was living in LA but as a Brit, had never really gotten into dressing in costume for Halloween. Decided to go & buy something & settled on Sweeny Todd (blousey shirt w/blood stained sleeves, trousers, waistcoat, big black wig w/silver streak). Very Johnny Depp.
In costume, crossing a main road in LA. Car slows down & some guy shouts "Duuuuuude, Phantom of the Opera! Yeaaaaaah". I waved, smiled & appreciated the compliment. Got to the other side of the road & it struck me...
- Phantom was a hideously disfigured guy who wore a near full-face mask & cape. Absolutely nothing like what I had on.
- So they were both calling me ugly AND getting my costume totally wrong?
No more dressing up for me.
is that you?
'you look like (insert celebrity)'.
that's basically someone calling you an uglier version of some celebrity.
Oh I have to add, the celebrity was Steve Buscemi. frerky5
I hope your day is as pleasant as you are.
Skinny B Proud.Giphy
Someone called me a skinny b***h recently. It was meant to be an insult. I mean, aside from the body shaming and violence in the rest of her message, I'm pretty proud of being a skinny b***h.
Why a dandelion?
Well I made up one actually. If you ever want to call someone an idiot without them knowing then call them a dandelion. Why a dandelion? Well in Icelandic the flower is named idiot. So you are calling them an idiot.
"Oh, you look so pretty today." Normally, you don't look very good, but today, you actually look pretty good.
An old Irish one is "may you die dancing." It means I hope you die on the gallows.
You know that song, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey? Well, there's a line in it which says "I don't want a lot for christmas," followed by revealing that what she wants for christmas is "you".
"I couldn't be happier for you."
Think about it, it doesn't tell us how much base happiness there is at all. It could be zero and they're saying they couldn't be happier than not happy at all.
Not so Bleh...
''This actually tastes pretty good'' - I thought it would taste bland/bad.
''You're actually pretty smart'' - I thought you were dumber than you showed yourself to be.
its the 'actually' that makes all the difference.
I have found many positive set of words will be insulting if used with a tone of voice that is meant to insult the person receiving said words. Whether subtle, hinting, kidding, joking nice or mean, or straight up malicious.
Like dude, Srsly?Giphy
Literally anything that starts with "Don't take it in a wrong way" - "Don't take it in a wrong way but you are ugly" Like dude, srsly?
Used to work in book publishing. My old boss, when he was at a book party for a writer whose work he didn't like, would say, "Welp, you've done it again!"
I saw this on another post similar to this but it's "Wow you're at the top of the bell curve" If you've taken statistics you know the top of the bell curve is smack dab in the middle aka average in a pool of average.
I'm from the South, so people not from here might take it as a compliment:
"Bless your heart."
It almost always means, "How could you be so inept/stupid?"
It's usually treated as a compliment, since there's an unspoken social contract to pretend the person is actually expressing care instead of being condescending.
It doesn't translate too well but where I'm from we have something along the lines of: your confidence lacks nothing (for narcissist or people who boast a bit too much).
"I defended you earlier... someone said you didn't have the brains of a dead frog. And I said you did."
"Your gorgeous amazing and youthful but the orgeous mazing and outhful are silent" this is not an insult to me (I am gay so I take it as a compliment) but depending on who you tell it to they might get defensive after they figure it out.
I was told in middle school by an old friend in front of my gym class, "you look pretty today." Thought it was a nice compliment until my toxic friend said out loud, "so she doesn't look pretty any other day?!" And laughed. Immediately felt bad after that statement sync either people laughed.
I started wearing makeup that day so felt pretty good until then.
Once I gave my teacher flowers at the end of a school year and she asked me "what did i do to deserve these?!" and I just said "nothing!" without thinking of the bad way she could've taken it. :(
Great thinking skills you've got there
"some version of, 'You've clearly thought about that as hard as you could.'"
"People only ever tell you you've thought too hard about something when you point out something obvious that is the first thing that popped into your head but they for some reason can't understand it or think it's really complicated.
I don't take it as an insult, more of a way to know someone is rather slow on the uptake."
"Once I had a car break down in Georgia. The mechanic was fair and as I was thanking him, he said 'I'm always happy to help a Yankee get back home'. I thought it was brilliant and hilarious. Even though I was the subject of his joke I appreciated it."
What do you know?Giphy
"I'm surprised you know that"
"Im surprised you didn't know that"
I hope you get what you deserve
"I hope your day is as pleasant as you are!"
"I like this because for someone to realize this is an insult, they have to realize that they're a jerk.
I wish we could hang it up where I work for the customers to see."
The trick to success
"You've really exceeded my expectations with this."
"Keep their expectations low so you can blow them away."
Wait, what did they say about me?
"I always chuckle when someone does something nice and then you say 'Hey thanks man, I don't care what they say about you, you're a nice guy!'"
You look good for once!
"'Wow! You clean up real nice!'"
"Unless someone is being overtly, obviously insulting, it's best to take things that people say to you in the most positive light you can. Better for you, better for them. That's a genuine LPT."
What's different about you?
"'Hey! You look really good! Have you lost weight?' The surprise voice during the 'really look good' part is very effective"
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