Damn with faint praise

  • Tommaso Gastaldi

    Senior Member
    Italian, ITALY
    I think it's quite common, however we in Italy do not have a similar saying, which somehow implies a ready awareness of the underlying psycological mechanism. I think that taking conscience of it is for us useful. More or less what Lsp was saying about the English speaking taking real awareness of subjunctive when they learn Italian...

    Another observation, not direcly relevant, but however within the same realm, is that, anyway, when you praise someone that is actually a very smart and subtle way to take over him... I need some help to express better this concept ... :)

    [please correct where English does not work!]

    moodywop said:
    Here's one more challenge for the nuance-challenged:) . Damn with faint praise, i.e. mildly praise someone, suggesting quite the opposite
     

    Elisa68

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Non c'e' un'espressione ma ci sono le parole. :)

    Dileggiare con lusinga
    Schernire adulando

    o piu' colloquiale

    Sfottere allisciando :D

    Che ne pensate?
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Carlo, the expression should actually be to damn with feigned praise but it seems that somewhere along the line someone has misheard the word. Both expressions are used by people nowadays but feigned makes more sense to me.
     

    Tommaso Gastaldi

    Senior Member
    Italian, ITALY
    Hi Charles I have cheked that word "feigned" which was new to me. I see that corresponds to the Italian "finta".

    However to me using "finta" instead of "debole" changes completely the meaning of the above expression.
    As I understand the "faint" version, one does not want to say something false, it is just the use of "faint" adjective (instead of a big enthusiasm) that is a kind of "condamn" for the person or thing which is being judged, as you are witholding an higher praise.

    For instance a girl ask me: Do you like Anna. I answer "sì, è simpatica". This way I am not telling a lie, but my faint praise is kind of "condamning" her to a "just ok" status. If I really liked her I would have said for instance: "sì, è bellissima"...


    Charles Costante said:
    Carlo, the expression should actually be to damn with feigned praise but it seems that somewhere along the line someone has misheard the word. Both expressions are used by people nowadays but feigned makes more sense to me.
     

    rambler

    Senior Member
    English Canada (blizzards!)
    Tommaso Gastaldi said:
    Hi Charles I have checked that word "feigned" which was new to me. I see that corresponds to the Italian "finta".

    However to me using "finta" instead of "debole" changes completely the meaning of the above expression.
    As I understand the "faint" version, one does not want to say something false, it is just the use of "faint" adjective (instead of a big enthusiasm) that is a kind of "condamn" "condemnation" for the person or thing which is being judged, as you are withholding an a higher praise.

    For instance a girl asks me: Do you like Anna. I answer "sì, è simpatica". This way I am not telling a lie, but my faint praise is kind of "condaemning" her to a "just ok" status. If I really liked her I would have said for instance: "sì, è bellissima"...
    I hope you don't mind a few corrections. (I'm just trying to be helpful.)
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    Charles Costante said:
    Carlo, the expression should actually be to damn with feigned praise but it seems that somewhere along the line someone has misheard the word. Both expressions are used by people nowadays but feigned makes more sense to me.
    Charles

    I checked and it is indeed faint. It's a quote from Alexander Pope:

    "damn with faint praise" (Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot)

    (Oxford Dict of Quotations)
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    moodywop said:
    Charles

    I checked and it is indeed faint. It's a quote from Alexander Pope:

    "damn with faint praise" (Pope, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot)

    (Oxford Dict of Quotations)
    Both expressions are used Carlo but I remember reading that the original expression was to be damned with feigned praise. I'll see if I can get some information on it.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    I'm on a short break at school but a quick search on google confirmed it's faint:

    Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
    And without sneering teach the rest to sneer.(A. Pope)


    The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.
    damn with faint praise
    To criticize someone or something indirectly by giving a slight compliment: “When the critic remarked that Miller’s book was ‘not as bad as some I’ve read,’ she was obviously damning it with faint praise.”

     

    Elisa68

    Senior Member
    Italian
    moodywop said:
    “When the critic remarked that Miller’s book was ‘not as bad as some I’ve read,’ she was obviously damning it with faint praise.”
    Tornando alla traduzione, in questo caso si potrebbe rendere con:
    Quando il critico ha definito il libro di Miller "non cosi' brutto come alcuni che ho letto", non gli ha certo fatto un complimento.
    (Lo so, Carlo, lo so non e' poetico ma da' l'idea!):)
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Elisa68 said:
    I am sorry Charles but I have to stick with Carlo on this one (otherwise he could say that we are ganging up on him):D

    Google gives just one result for the whole phrase "damn with feigned praise."
    Elisa try "damning with feigned praise" and "damned with feigned praise". There are quite a lot more.
     

    ElaineG

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Whether or not "damned with feigned praise" was ever a saying, the common saying that I've always heard and loved (taken from Pope, as carlo notes) is "damned with faint praise."

    The two sayings would mean entirely different things, however, and there is certainly room in the language for both of them.
     
    I agree it's "faint" -- perhaps the "feigned" was a play on words that followed the original expression.

    And speaking of the original expression, to "damn with faint praise" means to pay a small compliment where a large one would be expected, therefore making it obvious that you do not really like whatever it was.

    "Did you see Elaine in her new outfit last night? Wasn't it scrumptious?"
    "Well, her shoes and bag matched."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I apologise (a little) for a long post in English, but this caught my attention and I thought I would investigate.

    The earliest reference to damning with faint praises is in the sixth line of William Wycherley's The Plain Dealer, 1677.

    Martin Stabe's blogspot quotes a piece by John L Lepage of Malaspina University College. JLP was surprised that many people believe the praise should be faint, not feigned.
    He quotes a friend as pointing out the ancient references to faint praise.
    He argues that feigned would be better in the context than faint.
    He welcomes the finding that others have referred to feigned praise in this context since the C18th.
    But nowhere does he declare that the original version (see link above) of
    "And with faint praises one another damn;"

    or Alexander Pope's 1735:
    Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
    And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
    Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.

    was feigned.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    He welcomes the finding that others have referred to feigned praise in this context since the C18th.
    Panj, all he says is that they have used the word feigned in print since the 18th century. "To my relief, many others have feigned to praise in print, at least since the eighteenth century".
    But nowhere does he declare that the original version
    (see link above) of
    "And with faint praises one another damn;"
    or Alexander Pope's 1735:
    Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
    And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
    Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.

    was feigned.
    The assumption that it is the original phrase is purely that, an assumption. That's his whole argument.
    Anyway, we can't be absolutely certain one way or the other. They are both assumptions.
    Carlo, I apologize for sidetracking slightly from your original question.
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    Charles Costante said:
    Carlo, I apologize for sidetracking slightly from your original question.
    Charles

    Actually you provided some very interesting information. I was intrigued by the blog quote you posted and I may well post about it in the EO forum to get more opinions
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Charles Costante said:
    The assumption that it is the original phrase is purely that, an assumption. That's his whole argument.
    Anyway, we can't be absolutely certain one way or the other. They are both assumptions.
    We can, surely, be reasonably certain that Wycherley (1677) and Pope (1735) have not been misquoted - that we have an accurate version of what they originally wrote.
    Neither the blogger nor the academic have suggested otherwise.

    Of course Wycherley and Pope may have mis-quoted an earlier feigned example that has been lost.
     
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