not exactly old, just older = to mean young

< Previous | Next >


Senior Member

Take "old, older, oldest." Have you ever heard it said: "He wasn't exactly an old gentleman, just somebody older"? This, paradoxically means that "older," a step beyond "old," is not older at all, but actually younger.
How come not exactly old, just older came to mean young?
I tried to think of a fit completion to the expression but wasn't sure of what it might have had in there:
He wasn't exactly an old gentleman, just somebody older [than ...]
Aside from the analysis, is it a fairly common idiomatic expression that I could use?

Source: A Lesson In Confusing Comparisons
  • AntiScam

    Senior Member
    "Older" here should be a euphemism that means "He/she is no longer young but isn't exactly old either." "Older" does not mean "young."
    Kind of older than [being] young
    Thanks owlman5

    Shout it be: Kind of older than having been young?
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s yet another well-meaning but misguided way of trying not to offend people – so-called political correctness. The assumption is that old people don’t like being called old, so it’s more polite to simply refer to them as older. Which is, of course, meaningless.
    < Previous | Next >