left-handed compliment

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

left-handed compliment (plural left-handed compliments)

  1. (idiomatic) A complimentary remark which is ambiguous or ineptly worded, so that it may be interpreted as having an unflattering or dismissive sense.
    • 1921, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Nobody's Man, ch. 16:
      "We have sat through the whole of dinner and not once mentioned politics."
      "You made us forget them," Tallente murmured.
      "A left-handed compliment," Jane laughed.
    • 1964 Oct. 30, "The Morning After," Time (retrieved 7 Oct 2013):
      In a somewhat left-handed compliment, UN Secretary-General U Thant described Russia's new bosses as "competent and unpretentious."
    • 2006 March 19, David Orr, "On Poetry: Samuel Menashe—New and Selected Poems," New York Times (retrieved 7 Oct 2013):
      [C]alling someone a "neglected master" makes for one hell of a left-handed compliment.

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