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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!

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.

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

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.

left-handed compliment

a remark that is superficially complimentary but contains a strong element of adverse criticism.
See also: compliment

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 ?
Jonson's lines begin backhandedly, defining Penshurst Place in light of what it is not:
Just as Emanuel's adamant speaker backhandedly implies that pure textuality is a fantasy, Halliday suggests that the problematic status of the self lies someplace in between grandiosity and utter anonymity.
Hemingway's denigrating portrait of Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast testifies backhandedly to the power Scott Fitzgerald and possibly Tender is the Night (which he never mentions) had over him.
It is noteworthy that one of the pivotal figures in Christian ethics this century--Paul Ramsey, a thinker who often concentrates on war issues as well as medical ethics--rather backhandedly mentions the police when illustrating just war principles.
While not as serviceable as later Colts and S&Ws, the Army and Navy was an important weapon if for no other reasons, 1 believe, that it legitimized the use of the swing-out cylinder and, rather backhandedly, caused the U.
He generated a backhandedly positive hermeneutic program by laying out an array of possible kinds of interpretation that he translated into their elements so that their unsatisfactoriness would be readily apparent.
Across TV, we're lucky to find any show that deals with race consistently -- even backhandedly, as did ABC's short-lived and largely underappreciated sitcom 'Cavemen.
As a private school with no enrollment restrictions, Oaks Christian has been accused -- backhandedly, most times -- of stealing top- tier talent from other local schools.
For me to read Derrida has been to discover how he disconnects the former from the latter, and he seems to be doing it casually, almost backhandedly, as if the real subject of inquiry were the health of a super Europe, not the anguish of a wounded country's past.
But Power puts the small changes in perspective by backhandedly describing the type of practices still going on: In Washington, D.
Lastly, while Consumer Reports scorns some air cleaners for producing ozone, they backhandedly recommend other air cleaners that also produce significant amounts of ozone.
Maybe, the documentary kind of backhandedly suggests, TV simply isn't intended to be that good.