Thanks, but... um... no thanks.
November 27, 2007 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Is there a word for when you appreciate the thought put into something (a gift, a gesture) but dislike the thing itself?

Let’s say a co-worker gives you a gift. You’re touched, you weren’t expecting it, and the fact that they put the effort into doing something nice for you really means a lot. Then you open the gift and it’s a framed photo of their cat wearing boxer shorts. “oh! How… nice!”

So you sincerely appreciate the fact that they thought of you but, erm, a cat wearing boxer shorts? Really?

It doesn’t have to be a physical gift, like when someone gives you a backrub but they end up making it worse. It’s real nice that they put the effort in and all, but… ouch.

I'm looking for a word that describes this feeling. It seems to happen to me all the time.
posted by bondcliff to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Justified ingratitude?
posted by Autarky at 8:19 AM on November 27, 2007

You are a victim of the well-intentioned.
posted by yeti at 8:28 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

"It's the thought that counts."

This phrase describes a situation where you allow the kindness of the gift to outweigh the poor gift itself. I'm not sure what you would say when the reverse is true.
posted by kidbritish at 8:30 AM on November 27, 2007

A couple of things:

1) It doesn’t necessarily have to be an English word.

2) I don’t mean situations where a gift was expected but it’s clear that no-effort at all was put into it. Like when you receive a re-gifted wedding gift, or the time I had a sales rep for a secret Santa and he gave me two cassette tapes that he accidentally received from his record club, or the other sales rep who gave ten scratch tickets in the Yankee swap but signed the backs of them ahead of time in case they were big winners. Those are all situations where the thought does not count, because it was thoughtless.

“It’s the thought that counts” is the feeling I’m after.
posted by bondcliff at 8:35 AM on November 27, 2007

posted by unixrat at 8:54 AM on November 27, 2007

simply thankful
posted by iamkimiam at 9:07 AM on November 27, 2007

posted by rhizome at 9:12 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would call it ingratitude and bad taste, because a picture of a cat wearing boxer shorts is a freakin' AWESOME gift.

Seconding "it's the thought that counts."
posted by ottereroticist at 9:16 AM on November 27, 2007

nonplussed does not mean what you think it means, iamkimiam.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:18 AM on November 27, 2007

I was confused by the suggestion of "nonplussed", also, so I looked it up. I (and possibly also stupidsexyFlanders) learned something today:


1: surprised and confused. 2: (N. Amer. informal) unperturbed

— USAGE In standard English nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’. A new meaning, ‘not disconcerted; unperturbed’, has developed recently in North American English, probably on the assumption that the prefix non- must have a negative meaning; this is not yet accepted as standard usage.

So I guess the first definition sort of fits what the original poster was asking for (although not as precisely as they want, most likely).
posted by rio at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2007

rio, thanks for clarifying. I just looked it up in the OED as well. It suggests that there are two meanings for the word, which are contradictory.

It's like how livid can mean red, energetic, well as deadened, ashy, gray and pale.

I thought of nonplussed in the sense of being surprised by a gift, but confused by it's lameness, and unsure of what to do about it. But also a bit unperturbed, because while it's a nice gesture, it doesn't change life in the greater sense...basically, who cares.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:23 AM on November 27, 2007

this demonstrates the limits of the English language. I know in German they'd just string all the words together to make one new word. Shall we invent a word for this purpose? Such as "fortutaction"? That can't possibly already be a word...
posted by indiebass at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2007

I propose you call it an 'ikolbutta'.

It's kind of lame but thanks anyway.
posted by unSane at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2007

I can't seem to back this slang up with any sort of online reference, but I've encountered enough people in real life calling this "fruitcaking" or "getting fruitcaked."
posted by dong_resin at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by MiffyCLB at 11:53 AM on November 27, 2007

Awkward. Ambivalent.

I can't think of one word that describes the exact feeling, but I'm all too familiar with the range of emotions: grateful and flattered that they thought of you, confused as to why they thought of that when they thought of you, guilty that you don't like the gift as much as they want you to, and annoyed that you have to figure out what to do with this thing that you don't want.

"Nonplussed" seems to work pretty well, even though a lot of people are familiar with its unofficial definition. Why is that, exactly??
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fruitcaked is an awesome word for this! Love it!
posted by GaelFC at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2007

I like "fruitcaked", and might start using it, but I always associate fruitcake with re-gifting. In fact, my brother and I swapped the same fruitcake back and forth for a few years until one of us misplaced it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on November 27, 2007

I love fruitcake. If you get fruitcaked, send them my way.
posted by unSane at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2007

Yeah, as bondcliff says, fruitcaking is already in use to mean re-gifting, so let's not to do fruitcaking what some have done to nonplussed.
posted by king walnut at 1:19 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

My younger brother gave me a book one year that I would never ever read, but I was touched by the thought that he remembered that I liked to read, so I know the feeling you're getting at.

I would call this a 'wow' with an exclamation mark mark in the middle but not the end. A curving wow. But not a sarcastic wow. A wow that implies hey kitsch is cool when you get it and easily able to be swept into a garbage bag during spring cleaning. The kind of well enunciated 'wow' you can imagine Rowan Atkinson saying.
posted by h00py at 1:50 AM on November 28, 2007

-mark (extraneous, when combined with the other reminds me of the dog next door, just ignore it, okay?)
posted by h00py at 1:52 AM on November 28, 2007

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