Social Question

From_The_Ashes's avatar

Have you ever noticed that when someone starts a sentence with the phrase, "I don't mean to be..." they always end up being what they just said they don't intend to be?

Asked by From_The_Ashes (122points) November 29th, 2010

For example:

“I don’t mean to be rude, but you’ve gotten really fat over the past few months.”


“I don’t mean to be morbid, but I think you will soon die of cancer.”

It’s almost like they think that if they start a sentence with the phrase “I don’t mean to be…” that it makes whatever they are going to say totally acceptable.

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11 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes! And conversely, when you first meet someone, if they say, “I’m the kind of person that [insert some very positive and desirable trait here]….” You can be sure they are NOT that kind of person, and in fact have the exact opposite and undesirable trait instead, all of which you will find out within three months.

From_The_Ashes's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well I don’t mean to be nosy (lol) but does this come from personal experience?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Of course.

From_The_Ashes's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well let’s just hope he falls down on and lands on an underground yellow jackets nest after they’ve just found out they’ve been evicted. >:-)

marinelife's avatar

It is an attempt to distance themselves from responsibility for what they are saying.

ucme's avatar

Yes it’s called bullshit masquerading as a supposedly intellectual smoke screen. It don’t work on me suckers :¬)

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a similar one that bothers me: “No offense.” Then the person proceeds to say something offensive. Like if they say no offense intended, that takes the offensiveness out of what they say?

Why do people find it necessary to say the things that they believe will hurt the other person? “No offense, but your breath stinks!” “I don’t mean to be a smartass, but you have no fashion sense whatsoever!”

I think it’s that people are trying to duck the responsibility for their words. They want to say something harsh without getting feedback about how harsh they have been. Indeed, they are pretending to be a friend by giving you a tip.

Or maybe they are helping you. They want you to know they mean this as help, not an insult. They are on your side, and they are trying to say something that it is not polite to say.

Berserker's avatar

Haha yeah, that’s what happens in a politically correct society. Reminds me of when people go, I’m not racist but…I have nothing against gays but…the fact that they need to defend themselves from the start tells ya somethin, indeed.

ratboy's avatar

I don’t mean to be kind, but this is an excellent question. No offense.

Haleth's avatar

Good point. Whenever I hear “no offense” or “I don’t mean to be rude,” I tense up, waiting for the inevitable rude comment.

When I need to point out something distasteful, unless I know that I’m right, I often phrase it as a question. As in, “Do you think we could re-phrase that sentence to make it clearer?” or “How did you arrive at your conclusion for X?” Doing that starts a discussion instead of a confrontation. If it’s something small, I usually say “excuse me” and tell them quietly so nobody else will hear. As in, “Excuse me, but you have a booger.”

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