back-handed compliment

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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

backhanded compliment

 and left-handed compliment
an unintended or ambiguous compliment. Backhanded compliments are the only kind he ever gives! And I think his left-handed compliments are all given by accident, too!

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 ?
ANDY MURRAY will face the mother of all back-handed compliments thanks to a new version of Spitting Image.
Many casual observers who don't watch Everton on a regular basis come out with back-handed compliments like saying they're 'hard-working', 'well-organised' and 'difficult to beat.
The City boss has seen his side publicly derided by big-name rivals Arsenal and dealt back-handed compliments by other adversaries this season for their no-nonsense play.
However, the 21-year-old brushed off the back-handed compliments at the interview session yesterday.
A government study, in one of those back-handed compliments for which such reports are renowned, highlighted the area's rich shipbuilding history in identifying it as a place possessing the ideal skills for a permanent maritime scrapheap.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has made a habit of putting opponents off with back-handed compliments and talking them up prior to crunch games.
Secondly this version, though heavily bowdlerised, keeps the narrator - Thackery's most important character - to make snide remarks and back-handed compliments.
She said: "Graham will be remembered for his many qualities - his love of life and having a good time with his mates, his love of bowls and football, his love of Coventry City, his cheek, his never-ending insults, the put-downs and back-handed compliments, but most of all he will be remembered for his devotion to his family.
Not a series of back-handed compliments and faint praise with a ``just wait and see'' nod and wink.