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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Saturday, 6 February 2016

The compliment dilemma

Compliments are hard work; it's easier - alas - to be nasty.

The vocabulary associated with compliments is parched, over-familiar and lazy. The impulse to compliment may be sincere, but the end-product may look as if it had been assembled in a factory. Hmmm, says the recipient, instead of Wow! The sentiment need not be original but it must be originally expressed.

I don't attract many compliments, one reason being I raise unpopular subjects like this. Sarky bugger, people think, and they're right. Actually, that can be read as a sort of compliment but only by a sarky bugger.

I had ten minutes to go before the final episode of  a heartless French political drama series on telly. I pulled out a poetry collection and from it fluttered a card written by the person who had given me the used book. Here's an extract:

"I like this but don't need to keep it, and thought his voice sounded a bit like yours in certain places... or maybe I find him a bit too dry and clever for me."

That word "voice" is carefully chosen. No attempt to suggest that my barely finished stuff in any way resembles the poet's ultra-professional work. Only that I share an attitude with the poet who, I must confess, is somewhat cynical. Not wholly likeable.

This is nevertheless a compliment. The writer has flattered me by getting to know my little ways and is unafraid to be honest about them. Knows me well enough for that too. Since I own up to being cynical and often unlikeable how could I grumble? Truth can be received in different ways.

There are two further qualifications. The phrase "a bit like" ensures I don't get too big-headed. And I'm left to speculate about the indirectness of "dry and clever".

As I say, compliments are hard work.

PS: "Sarky" is knowingly sarcastic. And, no, I will not identify the poet.


  1. Well I like you quite a bit you sarky bugger.

  2. Lucy: Yeah, it was risky. Also a bit wilful. But the target audience doesn't do bland.

  3. So instead of "SoB" (son of a bitch) we use, in your case, "SoB" (sarky old bugger).
    I think there are some elements (note the "some")of Voltaire in your jottings, RR.

  4. Avus: Jottings! Sounds like one of those experiments involving chimpanzees. I don't jot, I ratiocinate then I declare.

    How felicitous that SoB should have another transcription. Feel free to use either of them about me without explaining which one you intend. It's called creative ambiguity.

    As to Voltaire there's this: Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. A real get-out for journos. And yet I'm told by echt members of the Middle Class that it's impolite to ask questions at social gatherings, a rule I've readily broken since there's nothing much to be said for silence. Hey! Another apophthegm!

  5. Glad that "jottings" had you rising to the bait, RR - as was my intention!

  6. Avus: You're inviting me not to take you seriously; are you possibly suffering from another attack of the old Austin Cambridge malady?