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"Bless your heart" and other backhanded phrases?
September 26, 2009 6:50 PM   Subscribe

"Well, bless your heart!" and "How nice for you!" are two of my favorite barely-veiled criticisms. Can you provide me with some more?

BitterOldPunk nails it when he calls such statements the most "infuriating, condescending, passive-aggressive SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE thing you can say." I am looking for other examples of this kind of phrase, which seems to be a Southern specialty.

I am *not* looking for flat-out insults, but for subtle ways to make one's opinion known in a socially acceptable manner.

What is your saying, and how have you deployed it? Bonus points for regional usage.
posted by MonkeyToes to Writing & Language (151 answers total) 299 users marked this as a favorite
 
That (insert clothing item or accessory here) really hides your (insert body part here).
posted by itsonreserve at 6:52 PM on September 26, 2009


I usually reserve "interesting" for anything so dull that it doesn't rate a better adjective.

It's only passive aggressive if you spend enough time around me to notice-- for people I don't know very well, it's a polite, socially acceptable way to respond to an evaluative request. (I don't do it to be a jerk... just to avoid being more critical than is usually necessary or wanted.)
posted by Seeba at 6:53 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"And best of luck to you".

As for regional, in Australia the common patronising thing to do is to address someone with a high status title, often when thanking them, such as "thanks champ", "well done chief" or "cheers boss".
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:56 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"God love him/her". Southernish, of course.
posted by dilettante at 7:03 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like "That must take up a lot of your time" and "what an unusual viewpoint!".
posted by fish tick at 7:03 PM on September 26, 2009 [23 favorites]


"It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy/gal"
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 7:11 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Well, at least you're happy."

I also had a friend with an infuriating jealous/pity-me streak, and she would follow up almost every positive thing I shared with "That must be nice..."
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:14 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That must be good therapy for you.
Isn't that special.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:14 PM on September 26, 2009


"Isn't that wonderful?"
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:15 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Duly noted."
posted by Rhomboid at 7:16 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I wish you the best with that."
posted by sculpin at 7:19 PM on September 26, 2009


"And how's that working out for you?"
posted by availablelight at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


I have said "your baby just gets cuter all the time!" to cover for "good God, s/he looked like a bug-eyed alien as a newborn".
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:24 PM on September 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


"I admire your stick-to-it-iveness."
posted by fish tick at 7:24 PM on September 26, 2009


"This is a... memorable dish."
posted by Askr at 7:25 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"You both seem very happy"
posted by mlis at 7:26 PM on September 26, 2009


"Your mother must be so proud."
"That's unforgettably distinctive."
"No, really, do go on."
"Please, don't take my unconsidered reaction as typical."
"I might have said that/thought that/done that too, in my careless/misspent/unconsidered youth."
"Pay her/him no nevermind, chile. He's/she's not from around here."
"I can see this conversation's going to need another cup of Artillery Punch."

And, of course, the following, said very quietly, with downcast eyes, and a sorrowful countenance, as the occasion demands:

"Certainly, sir/madam. I'd expect nothing else."
posted by paulsc at 7:29 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


What an intriguing AskMe this is. I hope it will turn out to be everything you want it will be.
posted by fish tick at 7:29 PM on September 26, 2009 [93 favorites]


"You're entitled to your opinion." (in response to a particularly stupid one.)

"That's what makes horse races." (In response to a disagreement. That's my equivalent of "We'll have to agree to disagree" which I've always thought was stilted and lame.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:30 PM on September 26, 2009


Calling a stranger "pal" especially in a traffic situation, "Yeah, you go ahead, pal."
posted by readery at 7:32 PM on September 26, 2009


Good luck with that..
posted by wackybrit at 7:32 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you for sharing.
posted by DrGail at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2009


My mother used to use "Thank you for sharing that," to good effect.

Actually, it was more

*pause*
*blink*
"Thank you for sharing that."

posted by Lexica at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Quite."

(Said stone-faced and while barely moving lips.)
posted by jgirl at 7:42 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Well, that's different!"
"Well isn't that interesting!"
"Aren't you creative?"

I'm more Northwest, and these are from my conservative family when they don't get me or the things I do.
posted by smartypantz at 7:43 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Yeah, I'll get right on that."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:44 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Well, aren't you sweet!!!"
posted by Kangaroo at 7:46 PM on September 26, 2009


"Hm, interesting perspective." (from the movie Sideways)

"I'll keep that in mind."

"I've never seen a ___ quite like that before."

"You must have had a lot of fun doing that."

"unique"

"effective"
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:58 PM on September 26, 2009


"With all due respect."
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:59 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Well thanks for stopping by!"
posted by HotToddy at 7:59 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who uses the word "interesting" when something is actually interesting?
posted by 517 at 8:00 PM on September 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


I can always tell when my dad doesn't really like something because he'll always describe it as "different". As in, "How did you like the movie, Dad?" "Oh, it was.. different."
posted by MadamM at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm just sayin'....
posted by electroboy at 8:04 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"How nice "
posted by Agamenticus at 8:06 PM on September 26, 2009


I sent out a message asking someone to do a pretty trivial task (We were working on team). They replied, "Why don't you do it?", then I said, "Well, if it's too much trouble for you to do it, I guess I could take care of it." (Illinois)
posted by kylej at 8:07 PM on September 26, 2009


MY wife responded to a (fucked up) co-worker's new hairdo with "That suits you."
posted by notsnot at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


Am I the only one who uses the word "interesting" when something is actually interesting?

Isn't that just the most precious thing.
posted by rokusan at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
posted by jgirl at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


That certainly is a green shirt.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:11 PM on September 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


"Good for you!"
"How terrific."

When said sincerely, it comes out pitched higher with no special emphasis, whereas when it's meant as a slight, the pitch lowers as it goes along, it's said kinda slowly and the "good" is emphasized.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:14 PM on September 26, 2009


"Good for you!"

"Good idea, you really should try to put it into practice."

And for people who are really annoying me, "You deserve a gold star!"

--

517 - I know people who say that earnestly but gah it sounds inane as if the speaker can't think of anything better or more interesting to say about something.

If you follow up "interesting" with an elaborating or inquisitive comment or even a self-interested comment, then, no worries, but just an "Interesting." usually ends my conversation with that person.

In what way was that interesting? Just saying "Interesting." kind of ends the conversational thread. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book. That's it, end of story. Dead end.
posted by porpoise at 8:15 PM on September 26, 2009


Of bad fashion choices: What a brave combination!
posted by rokusan at 8:16 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That... hasn't been my experience.
posted by secretseasons at 8:20 PM on September 26, 2009 [21 favorites]


This is a one-of-a-kind question.
posted by fish tick at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2009


Interesting, I usually use it as an introduction to a new, slightly different idea or question. Kind of like that.

I can see how just saying "interesting" in a flat tone would be conversation ending.
posted by 517 at 8:22 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"What exactly do you call those [shoes, cookies, cocktails]?"
"I'm not saying that you're fat/clingy/self-absorbed/homely, but..."

So here's my conundrum: I say "Bless his/her heart" genuinely. I intend it not as a "He's a little slow but we love him anyway" kind of compliment, but as a genuine expression of compassion: "Good lord, he's up against this horrible, insurmountable thing but he's pulling through anyway. Bless his heart."

It actually leaves my lips and I don't know where it came from. No-one in my family says it, and I'm from a crunchy hippie town where "Bless your heart" is definitely not on the list of colloquialisms.

Did I acquire it as a response to my lack of kindly, benign things to say in a town full of snark, and am only now discovering that it in itself is snarky? Or did I start saying it in a snarky back-handed way and then it just became common, unsnarky usage?

Ouch. Now my brain hurts.
posted by readymade at 8:24 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cool story, Bro.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:26 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


You don't say.
Hmm!
Oh, I don't know, you're the expert, right?
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the same vein as Serial Killer Slumber Party, in my family, when someone royally butchers something, we wryly drawl, "Nice job, ace."
posted by coppermoss at 8:34 PM on September 26, 2009


"Let me know how that turns out."
posted by fish tick at 8:35 PM on September 26, 2009


After a student has spouted something truly mind-boggling and unsupportable in a class discussion:

"Hmm. OK. So, how might that assertion be problematic?" Translation: "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?"
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:36 PM on September 26, 2009 [30 favorites]


I think that might be...problematic.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2009


It's a banner day, isn't it?
posted by generichuman at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2009


I am sure you know how much I respect your opinion.
If I had known you were so sensitive I would have been more considerate of your feelings.
These are both best used in a macho machine shop type of situation.
posted by Iron Rat at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Huh. Wild."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2009


My daddy always told me to say "that's nice" in place of "fuck you."
posted by tinatiga at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


Regarding a work of art, music, performance etc.: "I really like what you are [were] trying to do..."
posted by Jezebella at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


When someone gets snarky/aggressive over a matter that didn't cause any problem and was none of their business -- i.e., a busybody calling me out for walking my dog across campus because in some rule book somewhere no dogs are allowed -- I like to say with great sincerity, "I'm sorry. I *insist* on paying for the damages."
posted by keener_sounds at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2009 [51 favorites]


If you enjoy these, you'll want to read some P.G.Wodehouse novels (Jeeves and Wooster) - Jeeves the butler is master of this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:43 PM on September 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


I picked this one up from my genetics professor: "That's a formal possibility."
posted by sculpin at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2009 [20 favorites]


I've always been quite a fan of adding "considering" to the end of a sentence.

"Johnny played a great game of baseball. Considering..."

"The company did pretty well this year. Considering..."

It's best when you never finish what that second part is, but you always know it's something unfortunate.
posted by fishmasta at 8:49 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Personal favorite: "Well, isn't that just peachy keen."

"That's absolutely precious!"
"You're just too cute!"
"Fascinating..."

In Minnesota Nice parlance either "interesting" or "different" are what you say when you actively disliked something and want others to be aware of it but also don't wish to seem rude. Faked enthusiasm and over emphasis works better than deadpan here.

"How'd I like it? Well, you know, it certainly was interesting,"
"That was an interesting choice of ingredients."
Or most damningly: "Oh, well that's different."
posted by CheshireCat at 8:54 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, that about says it all.
posted by orme at 8:55 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I once heard Molly Ivins talking* about the expression "bless your heart". Apparently, in her part of Texas, "bless your heart" can be an expression of either approval and encouragement as in "You got the scholarship! Well, bless your heart!" or of contempt and castigation as in "Da-a-an Quayle. Bless... his... heart." and the intonation makes all the difference in the meaning.

*in an interview with Jon Carroll on radio station KQED's City Arts and Lectures series.

Another such expression is, "It's the least I could do". Said with sincerity and humility, it means, "I did my best, but there is so much more I want to contribute." Said with a snarky edge, it means, "I did the bare minimum that I could get away with."
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:12 PM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


After any incontrovertible display of incompetence, idiocy, or impudence:

"Oh my. You're in top form today."
posted by invitapriore at 9:12 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


BusyBody: You know, you really shouldn't drink soda; high fructose corn syrup is so bad for you.

Me: Thanks for the tip.
posted by jenmakes at 9:24 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It really looks like you" instead of "yeah, you WOULD like that" (usually an item of clothing).
posted by moojoose at 9:24 PM on September 26, 2009


My mother always said, "If you're happy, then I'm happy."

That meant, "This is the worst idea I've ever heard. I am not happy. I am telling the truth because I am confident that you are deluding yourself if you believe you are happy."
posted by jefficator at 9:29 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, possibly related are the less offensive degrees of giving the lie.

1. The Lie Direct is simply "You lie" or "You are a liar". Crude, but useful as a challenge to mortal combat.
2. The Lie Circumstantial is: "If anyone says such-and-such, he lies." This gives your opponent the opportunity to evade your wrath.
3. Next comes the Countercheck Quarrelsome: "How dare you say such a thing!"
4. Then the Reproof Valiant: "You know that is not true."
5. The next lower degree is the Reply Churlish: "You are no judge; your opinion is worthless."
6. The Quip Modest; it is something like "I prefer it otherwise".
7. And finally The Retort Courteous: "My opinion is different."

posted by atrazine at 9:30 PM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


And for what its worth, I feel like claiming "Bless you heart" for the South. We don't have everything going for us, so please let us have this particular passive aggressive island.
posted by jefficator at 9:30 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


70 comments and no "She has a great sense of humor." yet?

(or "personality".)
posted by rokusan at 9:33 PM on September 26, 2009


"That is so sweet! Thank yoooou."

Often delivered at birthday parties, baby showers, weddings in response to a gift unwanted and/or confusing.
posted by readymade at 9:37 PM on September 26, 2009


On a failed task, or one that only succeeded in spite of the person's incompetence: "I never would have thought of doing it that way!"

On a dumb query: "Most people would never have thought to ask this!"

On something visually awful: "I have never seen anything like that."
posted by maxwelton at 9:42 PM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Borderline, because it's all in context but:

"Well, perhaps that's just how she was raised."

Southern.
posted by anitanita at 9:45 PM on September 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


Oh, I forgot one: When you share something that is intended to be humorous, and the other person just smirks, then says "That's funny."

If they have to TELL you it's funny, rather than actually laughing, something is wrong.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 9:46 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Great story. Why don't you tell it again?"

Teenagers say it more like, "Good story, tell it again."
posted by kylej at 9:46 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm reminded of a joke:

Two southern belles were sitting on the veranda sipping iced-tea.

One says to the other, "You see that car in the yard?"
"Mmm-hmmm."

"My daddy bought that car for me."
"Ain't that nice."

"You see that horse in the barn there?"
"Mmm-hmmm."

"My daddy bought that horse for me."
"Ain't that nice."

"You see this here sun dress?"
"Mmm-hmmm."

"My daddy bought that dress for me."
"Ain't that nice."

"Did your daddy ever buy anything for you?"
"Mmm-hmmm. He sent me to finishing school where they taught me to say, 'Ain't that nice.' instead of FUCK YOU. "
posted by cerebus19 at 9:48 PM on September 26, 2009 [32 favorites]


Bless your heart/Bless his heart really does depend on intonation and conversation. It is both a benediction and a condemnation, depending on how it is used, and the tone in which it is said. It is not always a passive aggressive statement.

It is, however, fairly distinctively Southern. Other Southern expressions which require reading of the speaker include:

That's Lovely...which can mean what it says...or can mean "Fuck you!". If you ever see a hatted Southern woman use the phrase to a new-money showoff who is bragging about a possession...be assured that it means the latter.

"Duly Noted" often means "Shut the hell up, I heard you, I'm tired of hearing you."
posted by dejah420 at 10:06 PM on September 26, 2009


In the local theater scene in my home town, there was one director who regularly turned out quality productions and another who, time and again, produced pure awfulness.

Any time the former would attend the work of the latter, after the show he would always be sure to say, "Well, you've done it again!"
posted by donmateo at 10:13 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I'll take that under advisement."
posted by leahwrenn at 10:18 PM on September 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


(gushingly): "That's the great thing about America, that we can disagree about these things!"
posted by orthogonality at 10:19 PM on September 26, 2009


"Thank you for your input."

"No comment."
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 10:28 PM on September 26, 2009


People will fight me on this one, but I think, "you've lost weight" is an insult, though not necessarily consciously intended to be one. It basically means, "you looked terrible before" (along with implying a bunch of possibly incorrect assumptions about what kind of body shape the receiver of this "compliment" wishes to have and whether the circumstances of the weight loss were negative or positive from the receiver's point of view).
posted by serazin at 10:45 PM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, I'm often most stung by people who refuse to respond or interact at all, as in:

Me: I'm sorry I turned my paper in late, my dog ate it.
Teacher: .....
posted by serazin at 10:46 PM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


You have such nice skin.
posted by kathrineg at 10:49 PM on September 26, 2009


I'm fond of Miss Manners' recommended full response to intrusive questioning of one's personal affairs: "How kind of you to take an interest."
posted by lemuria at 10:50 PM on September 26, 2009 [62 favorites]


You look nice today.
Is there some sort of special occasion? You're dressed well.

(Sometimes implying that you usually don't look nice or dress well, depends on the tone of voice)
posted by kathrineg at 10:50 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love you, too.
posted by philip-random at 11:26 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the info.
How's that working out for you?
Isn't that nice.
You wear it well.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:29 PM on September 26, 2009


Oh! and...

Have a nice day!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:30 PM on September 26, 2009


"Neat." Half the time, the people who routinely say this (with no enthusiasm/way too much enthusiasm) can't possibly think everything is that neat.
posted by amylicious at 12:41 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


For anything artistic, an old friend used to say "We need more, much more of this."

Same context, from Dan Clowes: "Keep going in this direction."
posted by zompist at 12:43 AM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


"One hardly knows what to say."
posted by Space Kitty at 12:44 AM on September 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


Whenever faced by a lame excuse about why homework was not done, one of my English Lit teachers would say with an absolutely straight face, "My heart bleeds for you."
posted by Alnedra at 12:46 AM on September 27, 2009


In response to something idiotic, blatantly dishonest or both, "Is that so?," with a subtle, you-must-be-out-of-your-crack-addled-mind tone.
posted by ambient2 at 1:09 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


'that's innovative' (particularly with respect to items of clothing)
posted by agfa8x at 2:18 AM on September 27, 2009


I reserve this for my mother: "That's a thought!"
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:59 AM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


"You look comfy today." or "That outfit looks really comfortable." implies that the main virtue of the clothes is comfort and not appearance/style.
posted by wallaby at 3:06 AM on September 27, 2009


"You look like a picture today."
posted by plinth at 3:57 AM on September 27, 2009


SALIERI: Mozart. It was good of you to come.
MOZART: How could I not?
SALIERI: Did my work please you?
MOZART: How could it not, Excellency?
SALIERI: Yes?
MOZART: I never knew that music like that was possible.
SALIERI: You flatter me.
MOZART: Oh no! One hears such sounds and what can one say, but - Salieri!
posted by ook at 5:24 AM on September 27, 2009 [40 favorites]


I have a different version of cerebus19's joke. Same two southern gals, sitting on the veranda sipping sweet tea, only they're middle aged now:

One says to the other, "Scarlet, would you believe it, last night my husband gave me this most wonderful set of diamond earrings here?
"Why Bertha, that's just fantastic"

"And these lovely silk gloves"
"Bertha, that's just fantastic"

"And he's planning to take us on a trip to Paris next week!"
"Bertha, that's just fantastic"

"Where I've been given an unlimited spending allowance, I'm so excited!"
"Bertha, that is just fantastic"

*Bertha goes home, Scarlet's husband comes out*

"Scarlet, I don't know how you can just there and listen to her go on about that"
"Well Rhet, don't you know that fantastic's just another word for bullshit?"
posted by ish__ at 5:25 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I'm sure that on the right occasion, this will be the perfect thing." (of wtf?! gifts)
posted by mmw at 5:38 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Henry Cho, the Korean redneck comic, has a routine about the use of "bless your heart" in the South. "You can say anything about anybody, as long as you follow it with 'Bless Their Heart'".
posted by megatherium at 5:47 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a related point, in Britain you can get away with saying nearly anything about a third party as long you finish the phrase with "...bless him."

e.g.
"X is a complete, raving fucktard...Bless him."
posted by greytape at 6:09 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"He's a nice guy" is a socially-accepted way of saying "He looks like a Neanderthal."
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:51 AM on September 27, 2009


Tell us what you really think.
posted by grouse at 7:14 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State, I can safely say that Multicellular Exothermic has "bless your heart" completely nailed.\

Another favorite utterance of my grandmother that went both ways in the same fashion was, "you really shouldn't have," or variations there on. "You didn't have to do that," "you didn't need to go to the trouble..." and the like are all equally fitting here. Like "bless your heart," the meaning is all in the intonation.

Take family Christmas potluck, for example. Aunt Number One brings a fantastic looking baked-from-scratch pecan pie. Grandmother states "Oh! You really shouldn't have!" and places said pie in a prominent place on the spread.

Aunt Number Two brings a bowl of crab dip from Sam's Club. Grandmother states "Oh...you really shouldn't have..." in a much more stiff tone, right before placing the abominable crab dip somewhere nobody will see it.
posted by kaseijin at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Regionalism courtesy of my Western Pennsylvanian father:

"Wow, X is really a piece of work"

Depending upon circumstance, can mean that a person has either exceeded all expectations in a task, or gave a shockingly disappointing result. It's all in the delivery.
posted by alight at 8:03 AM on September 27, 2009


When I was 23, I worked with a girl who was an 18-year-old high school dropout with two children. She'd thought I was a couple years younger than I was, so when she found out how "old" I was, she asked me if I had any kids yet. I told her I was both single and uninterested in rushing to procreate. She then informed me in all earnestness,

"You better hurry up and get on that. You're 23! You're not getting any younger, you know!

Unable to politely say what I really wanted to say, I responded with, "Well, I will certainly take that under advisement."
posted by hegemone at 8:36 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"He's sweet" means "I'm not going to date him, ever."
posted by ctmf at 8:50 AM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Are you feeling all right?

Well, if that's the kind of thing you like...

No offense, but...

CheshireCat is right on regarding the use of "interesting" and "different" in Minnesota. Or "novel," "unique," "new," "something we haven't seen before."
posted by ramenopres at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2009


"Oh, how...quaint."

Seriously I don't think I've ever heard that word used without the speaker pausing beforehand as though to steel themselves against their obvious disgust threatening to escape.
posted by cosmic osmo at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a novel called "The Underminer: The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life," which is essentially full of these little passive-aggressive barbs. That is, every single comment made by the underminer is a subtle dig.
posted by jayder at 9:06 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Have a nice day!

I knew a woman who routinely responded to this with, "I have other plans."
posted by trip and a half at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2009 [28 favorites]


Most of these could come across as intended to be positive. It seems to be that it's all about how you say these phrases--which words to emphasize and your pronunciation in general.
posted by pollex at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just say "wow."

In fact, thinking about it, I don't think I say wow for anything good anymore... it's just my deadpan response to whatever it is that I'm supposed to be impressed about, that isn't impressing or of interest to me in any way.
posted by Locochona at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2009


It's not really a 'barely-veiled criticism,' -- more an utterly disinterested expression of 'interest' or pleasure. Bette Davis, to a chatty, just-arrived party guest in All About Eve declares, with her requisite body language:

"I'm happy you're happy."

It makes me laugh every time I watch the film.
posted by zenpop at 9:52 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the name for that back-of-the-throat 'hmmmm' noise that I make when I want to acknowledge that somebody said something, but do not want to react in a more specific way?

Whatever that is.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:20 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sister has an old stand by she uses, it isn't so much the word as how it is said,
"O kaaaaay" it's effective, she's used it on me.
posted by gypseefire at 10:55 AM on September 27, 2009


Neat!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"What did you think of the movie?"

"It was a movie, certainly."
posted by wsp at 11:28 AM on September 27, 2009


"Fair enough" sometimes implies "I can't even be bothered to think about what you've just said".
posted by paduasoy at 12:18 PM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Well. That is certainly a point of view."

And when someone has asked for something they're not getting from you
"How does it feel to want things?"
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:32 PM on September 27, 2009


"I'll keep that in mind."
posted by ainsley at 1:26 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


This seems pretty exclusive to college underclassmen: When someone relates a secific interest or, especially, obscure band they like. "Yeah, I used to do that/listen to them in high school."

A variation on several suggestions: I tend to say "Is that true?" both sincerely and as a subtle linguistic batshitinsane tag. Maybe I'm trying to give the recipient a chance to qualify whatever wild assertion they've made.
posted by cmoj at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"What a special snowflake!"
posted by jgirl at 8:25 PM on September 27, 2009


Really? Oh wow.
posted by aquafortis at 8:37 PM on September 27, 2009


I'm sure that's very popular with people who like that sort of thing.

Little. How's your little job going? How's the little runner today? How did your little speech go?

Cute. That haircut makes you look so ... cute. Well, that's the cutest performance MonketToes gave. MonkeyToes asked the cutest question on AskMe.

cute and little together are perfectly reasonable grounds for violence.
posted by theora55 at 8:56 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


A second for "I'll keep that in mind."
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:19 PM on September 27, 2009


"I shall study deserving"

(always wanted to use this one but haven't had the chance quite yet...)
posted by litleozy at 4:20 AM on September 28, 2009


Not quite the same, but whenever someone is telling me or my friends a long and drawn out story of questionable interest, we nod enthusiastically and, when an appropriate gap appears for questions, exclaim with all appearances of rapt attention; "BUT WHAT DID THE POLICE SAY?!".
posted by citands at 4:49 AM on September 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


"You could be right!" Which of course means "but you're wrong".

"I can't argue with that" is my favorite for seeming to agree when in fact I don't.
posted by tommasz at 7:31 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Indeed.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:25 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In this context, I almost hate to be sincere--but many thanks to all who contributed. Marked as Best Answer are those lines that I'd conceivably use (Minnesota nice is lost on my part of the world, unfortunately) and answers that made me laugh.

Oh, and fish tick? The thread certainly turned out to be everything I hoped it would be!
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2009


A little late to the thread, but the technical term for a backhanded compliment is a charientism.

"Stout fellow!"
"Bully for you!"
posted by benzenedream at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I always liked the Meg Ryan line from Joe vs the Volcano: "I have no response to that."

The Brits have it down to one word (all in the intonation): "Right." and then you change the subject.
posted by witchstone at 11:53 AM on September 28, 2009


When asked about a show she had recently seen, my mother, a longtime professor of costume and theater design would invariably say, "There were things I liked and things that I didn't like".
posted by dirtdirt at 12:04 PM on September 28, 2009


"You look so much younger since you've filled out a little!"
posted by nickmark at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2009


Well, that makes one of us.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why, the little darling.
posted by Bruce H. at 3:21 PM on September 28, 2009


OMG BFD
posted by xammerboy at 6:30 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


whenever I hear the phrase "with all due respect," I want to respond "fuck you too."
posted by Sara Anne at 6:45 PM on September 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


This blog post, about the BBC series "Yes, Minister," takes Sara Anne's comment a little further.
posted by bryon at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009


My baby daughter packed on weight so quickly that at three months old she looked like a tiny version of the Michelin Man. Great rolls of fat on her arms and legs and a big round belly -- she was a real porker. We were in Florida at the time and one afternoon we had to change the baby's shirt on a mall bench. An older lady walking past did a double-take when she saw how large the baby was, and you could see in her eyes that she thought our daughter was an incredible fatty and she was struggling for a way to say something that wasn't too impolite. Finally she said to my wife: "Well. She looks like a good eater!"
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Let me know how that works out for you.

And a lot of the lyrics in the Pet Shop Boys' song "Yesterday When I Was Mad."
posted by small_ruminant at 11:09 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Brits have it down to one word (all in the intonation): "Right." and then you change the subject.

In Scotland (Glasgow especially) we take this one step further with the expression: "Aye right!" - two affirmatives adding up to a great big NO.
posted by rongorongo at 5:11 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


rongorongo, I guess our version of that would be:

"Alllll-righty then! So- how 'bout them Mets?"
posted by small_ruminant at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2009


Wink at them.
posted by granted at 3:12 PM on October 1, 2009


"Aren't you smart!".
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:33 PM on October 1, 2009


"So, how did that go for you?"
posted by not_on_display at 1:41 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Said in a quiet, very serious way: "I'm surprised by that." or "I'm surprised to hear that."

It really means "that was completely f***ing out of line. WTF."

Harsher version which would translate to using more four-letter words: "I'm stunned."

Useful in academia & in the workplace when someone is obviously being disruptive, rude or obnoxious.
posted by citron at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


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