A Lectionary of Snarky Politesse

In this Our Lovely Deseret, we place a high premium on niceness, as well we should. There is much to be said in favor of civility, and it’s probably impossible to say too much in its favor in fora such as these, but of course the snarkier, more unfeminine emotions such as irritation and anger are not thereby eradicated, and after a time our stock phrases begin to experience significant and inevitable semantic leakage, following some sort of pattern the sociolinguists among us can, no doubt, identify with far more precision than I. My nominations for my least favorite, most tiresome phrases (both Bloggernacle and offline) follow.

Let the Gentle Reader note that (a) I myself am far from guiltless in these matters, and (b) I do not claim to translate every instance or variation of the following phrases correctly; in some cases, the meaning is, I have no doubt, much more benign. With those caveats…

(1) I really hate to say it, but… = [It gives me enormous pleasure to point out that…]
(2) I feel so sorry for women like you. = [I feel so morally superior to women like you.]
(3) Your statement makes me very sad. = [Your statement would infuriate me to no end if I hadn’t recently transcended all such petty emotions by the force of my immense spirituality.]
(4) I’m still trying to scrape my jaw off the floor at your statement. = [I can’t be bothered to refute your claims; it’s so much easier to take refuge in expressions of shock and horror.]
(5) Go back and read my statement above about X. = [I find it extremely convenient to lay all responsibility for any misunderstanding of my intent at my readers’ feet.]
(6) It may be inappropriate to bring this up here, but = [I know very well what I’m about to say is inappropriate, but I’m not about to let a little thing like that stop me.]
(7) [Statement or series of statements in the imperative mood.] = [Although you are a complete stranger and everything I know about you is based on the 500 words you’ve typed above, I know much better than you do how you should conduct the most intimate aspects of your life, I very much enjoy flaunting this presumed knowledge, and I can’t be bothered with the good manners that would suggest it’s inappropriate to order other people about.]
(8) [Bold, provocative statement of any kind followed by flurries of emoticons.] = [Please don’t think I’m not nice!–the sin against femininity for which there can be no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come.]

50 thoughts on “A Lectionary of Snarky Politesse

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    LOL (does “lol” count as an emoticon?)! I’m guilty of the overuse of smiley faces, et. al. It’s not entirely that I want people to think I’m “nice” and “sweet”, but that electronic communications (email, blogging, etc.) carry no tone. I’d hate for my attempts at humor through sarcasm or hyperbole to be misinterpreted as malice, for example (although there _is_ a fine line, I admit).

    One of my favorite examples of snarkiness in disguise goes something like: “Not that I’m disagreeing with you, Eve, but. . .”

    A general rule of thumb is that everything before the “but” is baloney.

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    Or how about the oft-repeated Christian adage: “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    I hate when people do this:

    “Um, [condescension].”

    I’m guilty of it, yeah, but I still hate it.

    Here’s more.

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    I really hate to say it, Eve, but I feel so sorry for women like you. Your statement makes me very sad, however, and leaves me trying to scrape my jaw off the floor.

    It may be inappropriate to bring this up here, but really, you ought to go back and read my statement above about soteriology.

    You must obey. You shall obey. Now bring me some figgy pudding. And a cup of good cheer.

    Also, I’m mostly convinced that feminists are the spawn of Satan. I leave open the possibility, however, that I’m wrong. It’s always possible that Satan is actually the spawn of feminists. πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ 8)

    By the way, you left out, “if you had a real testimony of the [gospel/prophet], you would…”

    And frankly, if you had a real testimony of the gospel, you wouldn’t have left that one off your list. πŸ˜›

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    I don’t mean to be rude, but I am shocked and appalled that you left off “I don’t mean to be rude” from your list.

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    Kaimi, your comment made me laugh so hard I nearly lost my lunch. Most excellent.

    As for emoticons, I’m just figuring out how to make them. Surely you don’t mind the “fonzie” 8)?

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    Politesse, irony … whazzat?

    I usually can only detect a snark if I spot the word “biotch” somewhere.

    Just like everyone else, I learned this important term from observing dialogue between Adam Sandler and Bob Barker.

  14. 14

    I have many unfavorite forms of snarky politesse, and many of them have already been mentioned. So I’m going to nominate one of my FAVORITE ones:

    “Well, pardon my French, but….”

    You always know that what follows is going to be good.

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    My comment nearly making a woman lose her lunch — now why does that remind me of my dating years? πŸ˜›

    And congratulations on getting the Fonzie to work. Now you can start practicing the Richie Cunningham.

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    Growing up in the south, it is what you say at the end that makes the insult okay. Specifically, “bless your heart”

    ie, “Why the child is as ugly as the day is long, bless his heart”

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    “This may be a threadjack but . . .”
    (I’m guilty of this one, so I’ll admit it right now)

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    Hi, one and all, and thanks for your observations and additions! πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    ECS, very good point about the absence of other cues as to tone. I’ve done excatly the same thing and will undoubtedly continue to do so. I’m pretty ambivalent about emoticons. Sometimes I think they’re very funny–like Janet’s fonzie, which I would insert here if I could figure out how to do it (see, this may just be a matter of emoticon envy!) and most of the time I think they’re relativey benign. When they start to irk me is when I feel that they’re functioning in the same way as the other examples discussed here–as a way of staying something nasty or cruel or judgmental or just unwarranted without having to take responsibility for it. These kinds of emoticons remind me of the “just kidding” tag my Beehives used to like to add to their most heartless statements: “You’re so ugly! Just kidding.” “Wow, you dress like a dog! Just kidding.” That coy, wide-eyed “just kidding” dodge nearly drove me to wring a few little necks.

    Thanks to Sue, CSEric, Mark IV, danithew, and Starfoxy for your excellent additions. (Looks like any sentence that pivots on “but” can be translated, roughly as [I’m about to say something I know I shouldn’t, but by acknowledging that I know I shouldn’t I hope to evade responsibility for it.])

    Ann, whoops, looks like I put my proverbial foot in my proverbial mouth again. I honestly didn’t have you in mind at all in my complaints about advice-giving (unsolicited advice just drives me batty to an unusual degree, and I realize that this is at least partly my problem). It was a very general observation, nothing aimed at you.

    Sorry. πŸ™

    Dang it, I never know who you all are talking about. Adam Sandler, OK, but I’m not sure who Bob Barker is, and I have no idea about Richie Cunningham. The ravages of cultural illiteracy strike again.

    HP, yeah, I’ve heard that one a lot where I live (not quite South, but near) and it seems to function in exactly the same way as many of the other side-snarks here: “Person X is a stupid as the day is long, bless his heart.”

    Kaimi, all I have to say to you is, “Go back and read my statement above about X.” πŸ˜€

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    I’d like to add one that I just read at fMh.

    I have serious questions about the rest of you

    It fits in nicely over here πŸ™‚

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    Oh, and jessawhy, “This may be a threadjack, but…” doesn’t even belong in the same category as the side-snarks discussed above. Clearly, it’s the sign of a superior intelligence that can hardly contain its own breadth and range. πŸ˜‰

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    I’m still trying to scrape my jaw of the floor after reading that you don’t who Bob Barker is! (For future reference, he is the indomitable host of the gameshow of gameshows, The Price is Right). πŸ™‚

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    Eve, dear, I really hate to have to say this, but it’s just that I feel so concerned about the state of your eternal soul. My heartfelt advice is that you repent right now of all this snarkiness and commit to having a more positive attitude in the future–you’ll feel so much better afterward, I just know it. You know, when I was younger and sillier, I struggled with similar problems to yours, but thankfully I matured out of them, and I think that with time and effort, the same will happen for you, in fact, if you’re truly lucky, you can someday become a clone of me. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    Oh, I have to add that one of my Bloggernacle favorites, which I’ve seen variants of in a number of places, is “I’ve been reading this blog for months now, and I feel compelled to speak up and point out that everyone here is stupid/boring/completely apostate and going straight to hell.” (I always want to ask, so why is it again that you’ve been reading for months?)

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    Lynnette, are those identical yellow smiley faces your other clones? Wow. Can’t wait to join that “family.”

    And a couple of variation on your #27:

    “I would caution you to stay away from this blog as it is apostate and will damage your spiritual life irreperably.” (But it won’t corrupt me because…unlike every other commenter/lurker here I have a special spiritual proton-torpedo deflector??)

    “I can’t believe you’re discussing [topic]. Why do you feel the need to keep talking about [topic]? Why can’t you talk more about [other topic] instead? Your topic SHOULD NOT BE DISCUSSED because it’s (a) completely irrelevant to your eternal salvation, (b) divisive, apostate, and the cause of Bad Feelings or (c) brain-searingly boring.”

    (And who, exactly, is holding a gun to your head and making you read? Because there’s such a tragic shortage of blogs these days, not to mention of reading material in general…)

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    Lynnette, are those identical yellow smiley faces your other clones?

    It may be inappropriate to bring this up here, but they’re actually clones of Kaimi, though rumor has it that he himself might be a clone of ECS (bless her heart). Though it’s admittedly hard to tell when everyone’s face appears to be the same shade of yellow.

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    Hey! You got frowns to work! How did you do that? It’s some kind of conspiracy to keep me from expressing myself as I see fit, isn’t it?

    No harm no foul, Eve. I just wrote a REALLY LONG comment that was full of unsolicited advice on Lady A.’s post about the passive aggressive roommate, and your post here is…timely.

    Over in the DAMU, I crowned myself queen of unsolicited advice. My subjects love me :\ I always warn people when it’s coming, and provide adequate disclaimers.

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    Ann, your approach to unsolicited advice sounds very reasonable to me.

    As far as frowns, smiles, etc. go–I have no idea why sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. I have the same problem you do; at times I attempt an emoticon, only to have it refuse to become an actual yellow face and remain a flat, random collection of punctuation marks.

    Maybe Lynnette knows why and can provide assistance?

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    Ann, I’m afraid you’ve found us out. It is in fact a conspiracy. Only the permabloggers get to use frowns around here. All commenters, on the other hand, are required to be completely cheerful at all times, to closely follow the classic adage “when you see a frowny face, change it to a smile,” and to mention at periodic intervals just how happy they are to be here and how much they love our blog. πŸ˜€

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    Don’t you people have anything else to do besides talk about emoticons? Don’t get me wrong, back before I got a testimony I used to spend a lot of time on so-called emoticon issues, too. But I really feel that if you stop and think about it, you’ll realize just how small these emoticon concerns are in the real scheme of things. Just the other day in a private meeting, my stake president told me that he is seeing more and more people who need counselling over this very issue, and that if they would just quit obsessing over these nitpicky emoticons, all would be well in Zion.

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    LOL, Mark IV.

    But to continue the emoticon threadjack (after all, as Eve said, threadjacks are a sign of superior intelligence — and it is her thread), part of the problem is that different sites treat them differently. On some sites you have to put a nose in to make it come out as a nice yellow smiley face, but on others you don’t.

    (Does anyone else, when encountering this, deliberately leave out the nose so that it stays as punctuation marks? Sometimes I like my smiley faces sideways and in black and white.)

    And now, for a test of various emoticons: πŸ™‚ πŸ™ 8) πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜›

    For those of you interested in the results of my test: Our site doesn’t seem to care if you have a nose or not. It also doesn’t (always) need a space in front of the emoticon. It doesn’t let you do an emoticon at the beginning of a line even after a space. I can’t get the bemused emoticon to work. And the fonzie emoticon is made with an eight and then a parenthesis.


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    I’ve been lurking in my family for years, and I just have to speak up now, to tell you that actually, they all have yellow faces and fonzie sunglasses. This is clearly a mark of the Cain-beast, also known as Six Sex Six, and they are all going to hell. Except me. (I color my face with a magic marker as part of my repentance process.)

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    Great post — and I want to point out one further aspect of this “kind cruelty” phenomenon that I discovered to my pain when I lived in Utah. If you explicitly call people on the fact that they’ve said something unkind in this indirect, “polite” way, they’ll defend themselves by heavy reference to the formulaic polite language that they used and a complete unwillingness to acknowledge, or sometimes even remember, the problematic part of what they said. This makes reconciliation harder than it would be if we were just openly cruel to each other.

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    #38 – RT nicely sums up the beautiful, inspired God-given means of needling one’s neighbors with impunity: Passive-aggression. Utah (okay, Mormons) seem to really thrive on it. It also seems to transfer well to the bloggernacle. Alas.

    This thread is great. And Ann gives the best. advice. ever. I’m just sayin. 8)

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    I feel I should point out how lucky you are to even have emoticons to complain about. It’s incredibly shallow and selfish of you to spend all your time griping about emoticons when there are old people who can’t even see well enough to use a computer at all. Some of them haven’t heard from their children in years, and you all sit here complaining about the supposed over use of a miraculous way to communicate emotion. I hope I’m never that selfish. :p

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    Hilarious, Mark!

    Ann, based on your very long comment, I consider you a model for how advice can be given in a way that’s friendly and non-threatening. 8)

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    RT, thanks. That kind of passive-aggressivity you describe has very much been part of my experience of the church as well. People want to give themselves plausible deniability instead of admitting to themselves that they are angry and they are being mean. I completely agree; I would far, far rather deal with someone who is openly cruel to me than with snarky politesse.

    Mark and Starfoxy, LOL! You’ve caught the tone of it exactly.

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    Melyngoch, you only started repenting because someone stole your Fonzie sunglasses and then broke them and then you wrote “Stealing someone’s Fonzie sunglasses and then breaking them and then refusing to tell where they are or even give the pieces back” on the Family Council issues-for-discussion-list on the refrigerator and THEN the culprit wrote “Stealing someone’s magic marker and coloring someone else’s face with it when they didn’t even want to be recolored” on the same list and THEN someone else wrote “Hitting people over the head with broken Fonzie sunglasses” and THEN three people stomped out of family council in dramatic tears and new rules were extablished banning all magic markers AND Fonzie sunglasses in the name of parental sanity.

    Just thought our Gentle Readers could use a little background on that one. 8) 8) 8) 8)

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    I’m not sure who Bob Barker is, and I have no idea about Richie Cunningham. The ravages of cultural illiteracy strike again.

    This is, of course, snarky politesse for “If I were even half as old as you, I would have gotten that reference.”

    Oops, forgot my emoticon. πŸ™‚

    2, 3 & 4 are my personal favorites.

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    Madhousewife, you could get certified as translator of snarky politesse. πŸ˜‰
    (And Kaimi could provide you with an endless stream of…job security.) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

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    Lynnette, between you paying attention to me, and Kiskilli fawning over my very long comment, I have no choice but to leave smiling faces and to tell you how much I love your blog. Y’all sure know how to make a woman feel special, even if I am a flagrant abuser of internet prose style #7. πŸ™‚ πŸ˜•

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    I am loving the emoticon tutorial!

    Mark and Starfoxy now rival Kaimi with their ability to make me laugh very, very hard.

    Here’s my current fave (spotted regularly with different levels of snark): Why don’t you just forget all this trivial nonsense and go serve someone?

    Because clearly people with free time to needle emoticon variances or ponder theology must not do their Visiting Teaching. (Is there an “angelic voices singing” emoticon I could precede and follow “VT-ing” with? It seems to be the standard of righteousness for many a commenter and the term needs wings.)

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