backhanded compliment

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backhanded compliment (plural backhanded compliments)

  1. (idiomatic) An insult disguised as a compliment; a compliment which can be interpreted as an insult.
    • 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter 17, in Tarzan of the Apes:
      [H]e respects your great learning, and, therefore, has immense confidence in your judgment. The poor dear cannot differentiate between erudition and wisdom."
      [I]n his mind he was revolving the question of whether he should feel complimented or aggrieved at Miss Porter's rather backhanded compliment.
    • 1998 June 29, w:Jere Longman, "World Cup '98: Dutch Fans Are Orange (Hair, Dresses, Clogs and Faces) With Envy," New York Times (retrieved 7 Oct 2013):
      Perhaps, finally, the Netherlands will shed itself of the backhanded compliment of being the best team never to win a world championship.
    • 2009 Feb. 4, Robert Chew, "A Madoff Whistle-Blower Tells His Story," Time (retrieved 7 Oct 2013):
      In a backhanded compliment, Markopolos said the SEC is a "bad regulator, but the best of a very sorry lot."



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