a backhanded compliment

back-handed compliment

An insulting or negative comment disguised as praise. She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a back-handed compliment!
See also: compliment

a backhanded compliment

1. A backhanded compliment is a remark which seems to be praising someone or something but which could also be understood as criticism. Saying she's improved comes over as a backhanded compliment. Reviewers gave the play the backhanded compliment that it was `surprisingly impressive'.
2. A backhanded compliment is a remark which seems to be criticizing someone or something but which could also be understood as praise. They were seen as the ones most in need of some culture. This was a backhanded compliment: it implied that they were capable of appreciating the highest works of art.

a ˌbackhanded ˈcompliment

(American English also a ˌleft-handed ˈcompliment) a remark that seems to express admiration but could also be understood as an insult: She told me that my essay was ‘surprisingly good’, which I thought was a backhanded compliment.
References in periodicals archive ?
So it's a backhanded compliment if rivals like Hibs and Rangers think about us that much.
It's a backhanded compliment, but I'll take it" - Jimmy Carr.
I believe that's what they call a backhanded compliment.
This is something of a backhanded compliment, but here's a list of the "Most Overpaid Actors in Hollywood.
The tennis ace was clearly impressed with his wife's physique as he took to Twitter to pay her a backhanded compliment.
Despite being the victim of a number of rash challenges this season, Bale sees the treatment as a backhanded compliment to his abilities.
The United defender enjoys the Barcelona midfield maestro's ball control Phil Taylor The DVD was quite funny to be honest but much prefer Zulu The Power gives a backhanded compliment to Something About Mary Mark Foster Hometown Champions League final for Man United
That's probably a backhanded compliment to the Special One - such was the fear we Manchester United supporters had for him.
But he didn't expect a backhanded compliment from his own agent after his comeback.
Karl Malone: At Staples Center, returning a backhanded compliment given to him by Kobe Bryant.
Admittedly, that's something of a backhanded compliment.
Whatever our interpretations of the katakana characters, it's clear that in using them the Wachowski brothers are delivering a backhanded compliment to the Japanese culture that has so influenced them.
In a backhanded compliment, the accolade for the best screen kiss was awarded to two women - Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in the movie Wild Things.
It is a backhanded compliment that Britain is viewed as a great country, a magnet for others around the world.
All in all, a backhanded compliment to his new boss.