Damn with faint praise

Damn with faint praise is an English idiom for words that effectively condemn by seeming to offer praise which is too moderate or marginal to be considered praise at all.[1] In other words, this phrase identifies the act of expressing a compliment so feeble that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even implies a kind of condemnation.[2]

Contents

Origins

The concept can be found in the work of the Helenistic sophist and philosopher, Favorinus (c. 110 AD), who observed that faint and half-hearted praise was more harmful than loud and persistent abuse.[3]

The explicit phrasing of the modern English idiomic expression was first published by Alexander Pope in his 1734 poem, "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" in Prologue to the Satires.[4]

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.
-- "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)[5]

The intended meaning of the idiom is closely mirrored in a 17th century poem by Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650):

When needs he must, yet faintly then he praises,
Somewhat the deed, much more the means he raises:
So marreth what he makes, and praising most, dispraises.
-- "The Purple Island" by Phineas Fletcher (1582–1650).[6]

Usage

The idiomatic label or description for criticizing someone or something indirectly by giving a slighting compliment is understood as an essential element of cultural literacy.[7] Faint praise is a kind of disparagement.[8]

The expanded use of expression has come to encompass a variety of contexts, e.g.,

  • In an interview, Encyclopedia Britannica president Jorge Cauz was critical of Wikipedia:
"Damning his competitor with faint praise, he said a big problem was that many users considered Wikipedia to be 'fine' or 'good enough'."[9]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Ichikawa, Sanki. (1964). The Kenkyusha Dictionary of Current English Idioms, pp. 153-154.
  2. ^ Ammer, Christine. (2001). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, p. 153.
  3. ^ Walsh, William Shepard. (1908). The International Encyclopedia of Prose and Poetical Quotations from the Literature of the World, p. 586, citing Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae. xi, 3, 1.
  4. ^ Walsh, William Shepard. (1909). Handy-book of Literary Curiosities, p. 211.
  5. ^ Pope, Alexander. (1901) The Rape of the Lock: An Essay on Man and Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, p. 97; n.b., see line 201 in "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot."
  6. ^ Walsh, pp. 211-212; n.b., see Canto vii in "The Purple Island."
  7. ^ Hirsch, Eric Donald et al. (2002). The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, p. 65.
  8. ^ Browne, William Hardcastle. (1900). Odd Derivations of Words, Phrases, Slang, Synonyms and Proverbs, p. 265.
  9. ^ Hutcheon, Stephen. "Watch out Wikipedia, here comes Britannica 2.0," Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales). January 22, 2009.

References

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • damn with faint praise — To condemn in effect by expressing too cool approval • • • Main Entry: ↑damn * * * damn with faint praise phrase to praise someone or something with such a lack of enthusiasm that it is obvious you do not think they are at all good Critics have… …   Useful english dictionary

  • damn with faint praise — ► damn with faint praise praise so unenthusiastically as to suggest condemnation. Main Entry: ↑damn …   English terms dictionary

  • damn with faint praise — verb To provide praise that is so minimal or inconsequential as to actually amount to criticism. Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,/And without sneering teach the rest to sneer …   Wiktionary

  • damn with faint praise — damn (someone/something) with faint praise to show only slight approval for someone or something. By qualifying his support, you could argue he was damning these leaders with faint praise. Maybe I m damning them with faint praise, but the Yankees …   New idioms dictionary

  • damn with faint praise — to praise someone or something with such a lack of enthusiasm that it is obvious you do not think they are at all good Critics have damned the film with faint praise …   English dictionary

  • damn with faint praise — praise so unenthusiastically as to imply condemnation. → damn …   English new terms dictionary

  • damn with faint praise — idi to praise so moderately as, in effect, to condemn …   From formal English to slang

  • damn with faint praise — (Roget s IV) v. Syn. condemn, find fault with, reject; see rebuff 1 …   English dictionary for students

  • damn someone with faint praise — damn (someone/something) with faint praise to show only slight approval for someone or something. By qualifying his support, you could argue he was damning these leaders with faint praise. Maybe I m damning them with faint praise, but the Yankees …   New idioms dictionary

  • damn something with faint praise — damn (someone/something) with faint praise to show only slight approval for someone or something. By qualifying his support, you could argue he was damning these leaders with faint praise. Maybe I m damning them with faint praise, but the Yankees …   New idioms dictionary

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