Life, Rants, Words, Writing

The ‘No Offence, But…’ Pandemic

‘No offence, but…’ is a phrase which is slowly but surely sweeping the globe. An increasingly common method of insult which allows an individual to guise deeply personal criticisms as casual observation, ‘no offence, but…’ is used to create humour at the expense of a typically unsuspecting and undeserving victim, for the benefit of a non committal audience.Annabella Weir, playing the "no offense" lady on The Fast Show

This expression is basically a self served license to insult someone by stating something typically personal and often irrelevant to the ebb and flow of the current conversation. The phrase is used as a flag, a method through which one captures an audience’s attention; say ‘no offence…’ in any social setting and everyone within earshot will pause to hear the outrageous and insulting quip you are about to discharge. The beauty of the term is that as well as removing any possible guilt or remorse from the mind of the insulter, the very wording of the phrase simultaneously forbids the subject from becoming openly offended. Since no offence was allegedly intended, the victim is expected to take it on the chin, to the point that any serious response or reaction on the subject’s behalf will immediately appear both unwarranted and uncool in the eyes of bystanders. After all, can’t you take a joke?

As a high school teacher, I have been gifted a rare insight into the dynamics of the adolescent social clique, and I am pained to witness on a daily basis the many cruel ways that children treat one another. Girls, I am ashamed to say, are the most vicious. I have seen boys literally knocking each other flat as a result of a ‘ya mum’ joke that went too far, but a hard and fast smack in the eardrum does a lot less damage to an individual when compared to the drip, drip, dripping of malicious insults, tapping slowly and tortuously onto the forehead of another. Of course, the issue on which I am basing this rant is by no means confined to young people; there are countless adults who can be as callous, if not more so, than the children for whom we are supposed to be setting an example.

So how should we respond when this septic term is uttered, whether as the victim or a member of the audience? At the outset, it needs to be noted that anyone who uses the phrase is a spineless tool, and for two good reasons. Firstly, if the person in question wants to say something insulting to someone, they should be brave enough to own their comment, rather than hiding behind a pathetic preamble. Secondly, if the individual feels the need to put someone else down in order to make themselves look good, they are probably neither nice or interesting.

Unfortunately, as a victim of the pandemic there isn’t a whole lot you can do. I would suggest falling back on your humility with the consolation that everyone present who possesses half a brain realises the speaker is a cretin making a cheap shot at your expense. As the audience however, you have a bit more power in this scenario (no one has instructed you not to take offence, after all). What I have found works particularly well is aiming a ‘no offence, but…’ back at the speaker. In doing this, you must be very careful to ensure that your retaliation has both more bite than the antagonists, and that it references their ridiculousness (so that those people within the circle of conversation who have a even a hint of intelligence can witness your outstanding wit and superior sarcasm).

So next time you hear a fool making a shallow and unreasonable statement in order to boost their own ego, close them down. Because if we can’t get rid of idiots, we can at least shut them up.

Footnote: ‘Nothing personal…’ is the evil twin of the above phrase. Ironically, this term is only uttered as a preface for something profoundly personal. Unfortunately, the irony is typically lost on the speaker, who isn’t trying to be clever, just mean.

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About michelle

Michelle McKay is a twenty something year old English teacher turned free lance writer, located in Melbourne, Victoria. As well as collecting opinions, Michelle enjoys wine and art, drinks too much tea and likes her music really loud. You can read more of Michelle's musings at her weekly updated website: www.theyeariquitmylife.com

Discussion

6 thoughts on “The ‘No Offence, But…’ Pandemic

  1. I just heard Donald Trump on the radio preface his calling the First Minister of Scotland “Mad Alex” with the words, “with all due respect”.

    It left me wondering where the respect was in that statement.

    Good post, these phrases make me very cross.

    Posted by MmeLindor | March 13, 2012, 1:24 pm
  2. At sixth form, someone from our friendship group once said “no offence, but everyone hates you” and was really put out when I was offended. Weird.

    Posted by Alicia J Duffy | March 13, 2012, 2:42 pm
  3. I’m not being racist but………..
    I’m not being ageist but……….
    I don’t mean to be mean but………….
    I’ve got nothing against working mothers per se……….

    Like upspeak and the liberal splattering of “it’s like, we were like, I was like totally confused” and the verbal tick that is “you know what I mean” they are the products of the conversationally awkward, where the ability to reverse out of what you have just said is the safety net that sits beneath opinion. It’s perceived as easier to claim denial and misinterpretation with these provisos in place.

    It’s strange that these verbal caveats are only ever genuine when used like this

    I’m not being funny but……….

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone follow this up with something actually funny.

    Posted by James Conmy | March 13, 2012, 5:10 pm

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