Monday, May 25, 2009

No offence…but…

Three words which invariably make me cringe, and then I square my shoulders and brace for impact.

“Don’t take this the wrong way…but…” is another good one.

What exactly does it mean when an insult is prefaced by the above words? Is the message that follows less offensive because of them or is the insulted party just expected to take it on the chin because ‘no offence’ was intended?

These little words somehow miraculously remove the need for tact or good manners. It’s freedom of speech gone berserk.

My grandmother used to say that;

Anything before the ‘but’ is a lie.

Do you agree?

Did your parent or grandparent have a saying that makes more and more sense as you get older?  Grandmother





Artist: Marion C Honors


  1. When we were kids we would ask mum what she was doing - all the time. as kids do.
    she would respond "making a wigwam for a gooses bridle"
    it still makes no sense....

  2. Fully with ya. I had an on-going joke with a mate about this. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're a total bag of shit". lol Never ending source of humour.

    "Don't take this the wrong way..." should be followed by some effort at tact.

  3. Then there is the ever so kind " I meant it in the nicest possible way".

  4. I still take umbrage with my mother's "It's a blessing," said when my 7-year-old cousin with Downs' syndrome died. It was a blessing to have Ivan in our lives, dammit . . . not for him to be taken away.

  5. The mere act of putting these words together before obviously saying something unpleasant is an added insult. I appreciate when friends clue me in to something that might prove embarrassing or unflattering - even if I get a little annoyed initially. And on the rare occasion where I take a friend aside - I would never say anything in front of others - another ghastly practice.

  6. No, I don’t agree. Obviously it depends on exactly what the person goes on to say – an unwarranted insult remains one regardless – but it’s a phrase I sometimes use when someone has invited my opinion on something.

    As you probably know, when this happens, whatever they may say, the person doesn’t want to hear anything negative. So you’re left with the choice of lying to them, or trying to soften the blow. I may do either, but I usually do the latter. This is assuming you can’t just avoid the question, naturally.

    Another example is where you’re using it in the same way as ‘Hear me out…’ – meaning that they’re about to hear something unwelcome, but they should listen to the end, think about it, and hopefully appreciate that the statement was well-intended.

  7. My great-grandmother's favorite saying that has been passed on down:

    "If you cannot say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

    Though I still struggle with this.

  8. I agree with Simon on this one. Between friends and partners, the phrase (phrases) are meant to soften the criticism, but it is also to show that the criticism should be taken seriously.

    Totally unrelated to criticism is my Grandmother's admonition, "you want horns, but you are going to die butt-headed." I probably am.

  9. One that makes me giggle is "Bless her/his heart". You can say that before any insulting thing about the person, and it somehow is supposed to make it less hurtful? I used to laugh when I heard these old Southern ladies say that. Example:I saw Edna out with Mary's husband at the restaurant. She doesn't seem like one to cheat on her spouse, bless her hart. HUH??? ROFL. Hugs.

  10. I never understood the need for the phrase. I work in a plus-size women's clothing store, so when someone asks for an opnion, you have to be truthful and tactful.
    "Do I look fat in this?" is asked a LOT!
    I can find six or seven ways to say yes without saying yes.
    "I like the colour, but the neckline is wrong. Also, it pulls here and here, and is too big here. I'd like to see something different."
    With friends and family, if I were to have to preface my opinion with a phrase, I'll keep it to myself.

  11. One that i like is 'To be honest with you..."
    Or "To be perfictly honest with you..."
    what was all that before? wtf

  12. I think Simon probably nailed it - it is an attempt to soften the blow!

  13. Uamada: that's a strange one all right :-)

    Moko: A friend and I have a similar line with each other - no offence girl but you're a pain in the a**e.

    Lori: yeah, what a joke. If you have to say that then you shouldn't have made the comment at all.

    intelliench: that's a bit rough. Poor Ivan.

    DuPree: True! We so all need to be told things sometimes (unfortunately).

    Simon: I get what you're saying but (lol)if I am asked for my honest opinion, I'd rather firstly double check that's what they actually want and then either say it or decline to comment if I'm not sure they really want it. The "no offence but" is a pointless exercise in half hearted tact.

    Doali: I was raised the same way. Generally it's how I work except for in situations as above :-)

    jadadj: I think there are more effective language tools available for that than using the tired old "no offence but..." mechanism. Get creative jadedj, you've a great way with words.

    Xanadu: totally passive aggressive eh?

    Kate: Completely agree Kate. I'd love to shop there. Commend, recommend, commend. Honest positive feedback surrounding a piece of honest advice. No platitudes.

    Punch: welcome punch. Yeah exactly. Are you only starting to be honest now?

    Lermontov: I agree that's often how it's meant but it's pathetic - it doesn't soften the blow at all so therefore it doesn't work. Find new material people.

    Thanks for all the great feedback guys - food for thought!!


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