Monday, 19 August 2013

No offence meant

Some insults are obviously exactly that. If someone calls you a f***ing arsehole or a stupid cretin, then there's no way you can miscon-strue it. They're having a go at you.

But other insults are more subjective, aren't they? What one person sees as a hideous insult another will find entirely trivial and not worth remarking on. So much depends on how the words are interpreted.

People sometimes say I've insulted them when for the life of me I can't see where the insult lies. As far as I'm concerned, I respect them, I value them, I may even admire them. Yet they're convinced I've abused them in some way.

They'll take what I've said as a criticism of their religion, their work, their political views, their parenting skills, or whatever, and any attempt I make to put the record straight is simply ignored.

Personally, I'm fairly insult-proof. If someone says something that might possibly be an insult, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume a quite innocent meaning. They'd have to be blatantly rude for me to take offence.

Even if they're saying something clearly derogatory, often I can see it's because they've obviously misunderstood me or imagined something about me that's complete nonsense. So usually I just laugh or shrug my shoulders or take no notice. Why fly off the handle at some gormless misunderstanding?

But some people just seem to look for insults, they love the sheer drama of feeling insulted and fuming at someone. They'll see an insult in every other sentence - a sly dig here, a snide reference there, a sarcastic aside somewhere else. Everyone is getting at them, everyone is busy sharpening a knife to stab them in the back.

The fact is, I don't insult anyone out of the blue, for no good reason. They'd have to insult me first, and quite flagrantly, for me to respond in kind. Even then, I find it hard to be insulting. I always feel uncomfortable and mean, however justified my reaction, however hurt or crushed I may be.

All I can say is, like beauty, insults are often in the eye of the beholder.

27 comments:

John Gray said...

I love a perfectly judged insult
Especially if I am bright enough to think of one

Nick said...

John: Groucho Marx had some wonderful insults. "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception." "I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." "Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you."

Grannymar said...

Life is too short for flinging insults about. Some hurt more than knives.

Nick said...

Grannymar: I agree, there are better things to do than chucking insults. Why waste time on an acrimonious slanging match?

Liz said...

As I've said before, i am often oblivious to insults.

I know a man who is very quick-witted and comes up with funny comments but quite often they're rather cutting, yet when he is the subject of even a well-meaning joke he takes offence.

Nick said...

Liz: In my experience that's often the case, that someone who happily insults all and sundry is extremely uptight about remarks aimed at them. My father was a prime example!

Secret Agent Woman said...

This post was written to insult me, wasn't it? I know it was! A not-so-subtle jab at everything I hold dear. Hmph!

Leah said...

If you are told more than once or twice by various people that you are being insulting, then I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as purely "subjective."

Ursula said...

I could make a scathing remark now. Just to test your theory. But I won't. Waste not, want not.

Other than that I agree with John. A judiciously employed 'insult'is worth a dozen silences. The very best when the 'insulted' doesn't even notice. So no offence given.That's brilliance. And very amusing.

And Leah is right ...

U

Nick said...

Agent: Good Lord no, how could you possibly think that? The reference to money-grubbing therapists was entirely coincidental.

Leah: Yes, if several people agree I'm being insulting, I would assume there's some truth in it and look at my behaviour carefully. Though there again, thinking of the regular furores over "insults" to Islam, even a general consensus on what's insulting might not be too reliable.

Nick said...

Ursula: Don't worry, you've made plenty of scathing remarks in the past!

Funny, I get no satisfaction out of wielding an insult, judiciously employed or otherwise. I'd much rather make an honest comment or just keep my gob shut.

Ursula said...

I am not worried, Nick.

You do, of course, contradict your original post with your second paragraph in your last reply to me.

And what is an 'honest' comment? A judiciously employed sarcasm (forget the word 'insult'- far too strong in context of everyday exchanges) can hardly be more honest. And, maybe you haven't thought about it like that, Nick: What I am referring to may be delivered a much sweeter pill than what I suspect YOU mean by 'honest comment'.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, by honest comment I don't mean an insulting one, just a comment that's my true opinion rather than some phoney nonsense. Of course, if I think it'll be insulting, as I say, I keep my mouth shut.

Bijoux said...

The worst is when people preface an insult with, "I hope you don't take this the wrong way."

Nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed. You think, Oh dear, what the hell are they going to say?And they're almost inviting you to take it the wrong way!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

I do think you're right, Nick. Insults can so often be in the eye of the beholder!

And I think the reason that some people are so quick to take offence is simply that they are very insecure, so this is one case where it really is 'all about them' and nothing to do with you at all!

Funny you should write this today, because I've just read a forum thread I was taking part in and the OP has written such a peculiar post that I'm left thinking 'did I just get insulted?'

Nick said...

Jay: I think in general you're right about insecurity. But the funny thing is, I'm chronically insecure myself, yet I'm also pretty immune to insults. I just know most of the insults are meaningless spleen, so I take no notice. And sometimes of course they're a deliberate wind-up, so no point in rising to the bait.

And I know what you mean about being left wondering if something was an insult or not.

Rummuser said...

In that old film Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner, Spencer Tracy backs into a young man's low slung sports car and is called all sorts of names by the young man. The way that the scene unfolds and how Tracy handles the situation is a classic lesson on how to handle that kind of insults. My motto, neither insult nor be insulted. If the latter happens, ignore. That wisdom was obtained after I reached the stage where I could neither fight nor take flight. Before that, I have got into more scrapes than I care to remember.

Nick said...

Ramana: I agree most insults are best ignored. It's not worth the time and trouble getting into a nasty cat-fight. I don't remember the Spencer Tracy scene, must check it out.

Jenny Woolf said...

I find people who keep taking offence a bit of a pain. I don't take offence at them being like that, but must admit I tend to avoid them.

Nick said...

Jenny: Me too. Life is too short to keep "mopping up" after permanently indignant people.

speccy said...

Sometimes I wonder 'did she just insult me?' and am flabbergasted. Sadly, and it may be the insecurity thing, with some people, they only have to open their mouths and I'm offended/ patronised/ outraged/ whatever.
The internet seems to be a good place for rows, offence and bother, but I try to steer clear of that aspect.

Nick said...

Speccy: I should also steer clear of those people who keep stirring you up! Indeed, the spleen level of the internet is always pretty high. Some people seem to be permanently on heat, as it were!

bonsaimum said...

Sometimes just being honest is considered an insult.People want you to say what they want to hear,all the time.

Nick said...

Bonsaimum: Very true. Even if they say they want you to be honest, they may not actually mean it.

Ursula said...

Bonsaimum, Nick: I take you are 'people'. Honestly. Just what you wanted to hear. Innit?

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Come again?