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Chinese compliment

A false or facetious display of obeisance, or an insult disguised as a compliment. A derogatory phrase, it should not be confused with the linguistic or sociological components of compliments as used in Chinese language and culture.
See also: Chinese, 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

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!

compliment someone on something

to say something nice to someone about something connected to that person. I was pleased with Alice's work and complimented her on it. They complimented me on my new tie.
See also: compliment

fish for a compliment

Fig. to try to get someone to pay oneself a compliment. When she showed me her new dress, I could tell that she was fishing for a compliment. Tom was certainly fishing for a compliment when he modeled his fancy haircut for his friends.
See also: compliment, fish

pay someone a backhanded compliment

 and pay someone a left-handed compliment
Fig. to give someone a false compliment that is really an insult or criticism. John said that he had never seen me looking better. I think he was paying me a left-handed compliment. I'd prefer that someone insulted me directly. I hate it when someone pays me a backhanded compliment—unless it's a joke.

pay someone compliment

Fig. to give someone a compliment. Tom paid Bill a compliment when he told him he was intelligent. Mary was very gracious when Anne paid her a compliment.
See also: compliment, pay

return the compliment

 and return someone's compliment
to pay a compliment to someone who has paid you a compliment. Mary told me that my hair looked nice, so I returned her compliment and told her that her hair was lovely. When someone says something nice, it is polite to return the compliment.
See also: compliment, return

return the compliment

1. to do something for someone because they have done something for you Our neighbors looked after the house while we were away, and we'll return the compliment when they go on vacation.
2. to do or say something unfriendly to someone because they have made you angry The batter was thrown out of the game, so he returned the compliment by calling the umpire a fool.
Related vocabulary: return the favor
See also: compliment, return

a back-handed compliment

  (British, American & Australian) also a left-handed compliment (American)
a remark which seems approving but which is also negative He gave me that classic back-handed compliment. He said I played football very well 'for a woman'.
See return the compliment
See also: compliment

fish for compliments

to try to make someone praise you, often by criticizing yourself to them (usually in continuous tenses) Emma, you know you don't look fat in that dress. Are you fishing for compliments?
See also: compliment, fish

return the compliment

to do something for someone because they have done something for you Thanks for looking after the house while we were away. I hope I'll be able to return the compliment some time.
See also: compliment, return

back of one's hand

Rejection or contempt, as in Unimpressed with him, she gave the back of her hand to his suggestion. This phrase is usually the object of a verb such as give or show. [Second half of 1700s] Back of the hand similarly means "an insult" in the term back-handed compliment (see under left-handed compliment) but has a quite different meaning in know like the back of one's hand (see under know like a book).
See also: back, hand, of

left-handed compliment

Also, backhanded compliment. An insult in the guise of an expression of praise. For example, She said she liked my hair, but it turned out to be a left-handed compliment when she asked how long I'd been dyeing it . This expression uses left-handed in the sense of "questionable or doubtful," a usage dating from about 1600.
See also: compliment

pay a compliment

Express praise or commendation to someone, as in Meredith wanted to pay Christopher a compliment so she told him she liked his new haircut . This expression uses pay in the sense of "give something that is due." [c. 1700]
See also: compliment, pay

return the compliment

Also, return the favor. Repay someone in kind, as in Her political opponent came out with a smear campaign, and she returned the compliment. Neither the compliment nor the favor in this idiom is necessarily desirable. [First half of 1700s]
See also: compliment, return
References in classic literature ?
No compliment can be eloquent, except as an expression of indifference," said Maggie, flushing a little.
I will never pay you a compliment again, Miss Tulliver," said Stephen.
If the same annual compliment would be acceptable there, why, I see nothing to part us, unless you do.
are determining how a particular color compliments other room accents such as curtains, rugs, pillows etc.
The XD10P Cinema Audio Processor is the newest offering from DTS and compliments the XD10 Media Player by allowing audio to remain in the digital domain throughout the processing stage as it is delivered to a theatre's audio system.
The ads open with Snapple fans being interviewed about their favorite flavor providing honest and somewhat unconventional compliments about Snapple.
Pink Sheets: "SIKY") announces that it has begun to roll-out its patent-driven acquisition strategy that compliments each patent in its portfolio.
com site, that provides enhanced rich media which compliments the magazine and CD-ROM experiences.
Verso's introduction of the Verso Border Agent and Verso Subscriber Portal compliments C5CM v3.
This already compliments the many courses CME already offers both in the classroom and on-line.
Mercator is responsive in its analytical approach and its execution which compliments other institutional investments committed to Penthouse in the prior several weeks.
Pianist Eric Shifrin will entertain all evening, and ladies will receive a red rose and chocolate, compliments of the chef.
All HIPAA Road Map attendees will receive a free subscription to Behavioral Healthcare Tomorrow, compliments of Manisses Communications, and a free subscription to One - The Integration of Healthcare & Technology, compliments of CMHC Systems.
MM/TMS compliments various backup applications by integrating them with powerful media management tools letting the user track, control and protect removable storage media.
For Corning Cable Systems, this relationship compliments an already renowned product line with a product that addresses a pertinent need among its customers - the need to reduce the costs associated with the provision and maintenance of DSL services.