Poll: When is something an insult

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  1. #1
    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default when is something an insult?

    To what extent do we need to consider the feelings of our fellow people? When I say something without the intention to insult anyone but nonetheless people are insulted, whose concern is that?
    Last edited by The Stranger; 11-25-2013 at 23:50.

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    Sovereign Oppressor Member TIE Fighter Shooter Champion, Turkey Shoot Champion, Juggler Champion Kralizec's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    I think that letting it depend on the person who feels insulted is definitely a stretch.

    I'd say that for something to count as insulting when it is not intended so, it would have to be something that a comfortable majority of people would find objectionable; and that the person making the statement should have known better. Does that fall under #3?

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    has a Senior Member HoreTore's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    I can't see how the one making a comment can be the one deciding how it should be interpreted.

    The insulted must be allowed to react however he wants to a statement, including feeling insulted. And if someone feels insulted, how can that not be called an insult? I say it's a subjective feeling that must necessarily be decided by the one on the receiving end.


    This, however, does not in any way mean that anyone should ever care that someone else gets insulted.
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    An insult is an insult when it is perceived as such. You can't really undo offence given to someone by pointing out you didn't mean to, likewise most people are hardly going to be offended by the suggestion that their father smells of elderberries even if it is most sincerely intended to insult them. The real question, I think, is not about when something is insulting per se, but rather when does it matter whether or not you are insulting, or in other words: (when) do you care?
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    Member Member Sp4's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    I always kind of understood insults to be done on purpose and offenses to happen accidentally or at least I make that distinction. I'm aware that some things I can say might offend people though, so I try to avoid doing it cause if I wasn't doing that, I'd be insulting them on purpose =X XD

  6. #6
    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    There are always two sides to communication and if you want to communicate something and you care how it is received, you have to try to predict how the recipient will interprete it. If you fail and someone feels insulted, you can state you actual intention but it depends on the recipient whether they still believe you. If not, as Tellos says, it depends on how much you care.

    I've personally managed to turn some unintended insults around and others not so much.

    It generally helps to be a bit more careful with words however if you like the people you talk to.


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    Praefectus Fabrum Senior Member Anime BlackJack Champion, Flash Poker Champion, Word Up Champion, Shape Game Champion, Snake Shooter Champion, Fishwater Challenge Champion, Rocket Racer MX Champion, Jukebox Hero Champion, My House Is Bigger Than Your House Champion, Funky Pong Champion, Cutie Quake Champion, Fling The Cow Champion, Tiger Punch Champion, Virus Champion, Solitaire Champion, Worm Race Champion, Rope Walker Champion, Penguin Pass Champion, Skate Park Champion, Watch Out Champion, Lawn Pac Champion, Weapons Of Mass Destruction Champion, Skate Boarder Champion, Lane Bowling Champion, Bugz Champion, Makai Grand Prix 2 Champion, White Van Man Champion, Parachute Panic Champion, BlackJack Champion, Stans Ski Jumping Champion, Smaugs Treasure Champion, Sofa Longjump Champion Seamus Fermanagh's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Communication theorists generally hold with the view that it is the message receiver and not the sender who determines the impact of a message.

    If you say "that doesn't flatter you" and your S.O. hears "You're fat and ugly" just GUESS which interpretation dominates the relationship for the next little while.


    Some phrases and words do carry too much baggage and can end up causing insult through simple use. Perhaps this should not be so, but it is.
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    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoreTore View Post
    And if someone feels insulted, how can that not be called an insult? I say it's a subjective feeling that must necessarily be decided by the one on the receiving end.
    Because at the end of the day, people can feel insulted by everything. The clear counter-example to what you just said would be Homophilia and Homophobia. Some people are gay, other people can feel insulted by this, but does it therefor mean that being gay is an insult or is insulting?

    Ofcourse when someone feels insulted, no rational reasoning can take away his feeling, but still we can discuss wether his feeling is justified. Similar to fear, sometimes fear is justified and sometimes it isnt, this doesnt take away the fear of one who is afraid, but it can allow us to say that what he is afraid of, is actually not a threat.
    Last edited by The Stranger; 11-26-2013 at 05:05.

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    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus Fermanagh View Post
    Communication theorists generally hold with the view that it is the message receiver and not the sender who determines the impact of a message.

    If you say "that doesn't flatter you" and your S.O. hears "You're fat and ugly" just GUESS which interpretation dominates the relationship for the next little while.


    Some phrases and words do carry too much baggage and can end up causing insult through simple use. Perhaps this should not be so, but it is.
    Yes, this seems to be the current status quo but I'm not sure I like it, but its good you bring it up. I may come back to it later with a response!

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    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tellos Athenaios View Post
    An insult is an insult when it is perceived as such. You can't really undo offence given to someone by pointing out you didn't mean to, likewise most people are hardly going to be offended by the suggestion that their father smells of elderberries even if it is most sincerely intended to insult them. The real question, I think, is not about when something is insulting per se, but rather when does it matter whether or not you are insulting, or in other words: (when) do you care?
    yes, that question was part of my OP. and i guess in daily life its the more important question, tho for now ill regard it as of lesser importance.

    for now the answer, you should care when you care about the opinion of the person who is insulted, either because you love/respect/fear that person or because you need something of that person.

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  11. #11
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Only when it's intended to be an insult, that's an act. If someone feels insulted it was just insulting.

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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    When the intent of the speech is insulting in nature. Removing intent from the equation makes every statement an insult.
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    Master of useless knowledge Senior Member Kitten Shooting Champion, Eskiv Champion Ironside's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Stranger View Post
    Because at the end of the day, people can feel insulted by everything. The clear counter-example to what you just said would be Homophilia and Homophobia. Some people are gay, other people can feel insulted by this, but does it therefor mean that being gay is an insult or is insulting?

    Ofcourse when someone feels insulted, no rational reasoning can take away his feeling, but still we can discuss wether his feeling is justified. Similar to fear, sometimes fear is justified and sometimes it isnt, this doesnt take away the fear of one who is afraid, but it can allow us to say that what he is afraid of, is actually not a threat.
    The same comment, in the same tone, can be an intended insult, unthoughtful insult, unintended insult and a helpful question (Can I help you?). So evidently, it's the perciever that decides if it's an insult or not.

    The justification has to do with the next phase. How do you respond to the insult and how should the (sometimes accidental) insulter respond to that in turn? I don't think there's a good generalisation that doesn't have plenty of exceptions for that.

    Edit:
    Take a gaming example. Say that you're extra helpful towards a girl in a computer game, because she's a girl and "girls aren't good at computer games". That's an insult and should be treated as "education time" (same thing as you gay example gave, even if it's rather offended than insulted), even if you didn't intend it as such. It's unintentionally demeaning. With a child, that kind of stuff can be both demeaning and correct at the same time.

    One symbolic part of friendship is tolerating comments that if said by anyone else is an insult. That also means that the "insulter" needs to know when to not throw that "insult" since it will be taken as an insult at that point.

    It basically falls down to what the larger society finds acceptable/tolerable or not.
    Last edited by Ironside; 11-26-2013 at 11:29.
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    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ironside View Post
    The same comment, in the same tone, can be an intended insult, unthoughtful insult, unintended insult and a helpful question (Can I help you?). So evidently, it's the perciever that decides if it's an insult or not.

    The justification has to do with the next phase. How do you respond to the insult and how should the (sometimes accidental) insulter respond to that in turn? I don't think there's a good generalisation that doesn't have plenty of exceptions for that.

    Edit:
    Take a gaming example. Say that you're extra helpful towards a girl in a computer game, because she's a girl and "girls aren't good at computer games". That's an insult and should be treated as "education time" (same thing as you gay example gave, even if it's rather offended than insulted), even if you didn't intend it as such. It's unintentionally demeaning. With a child, that kind of stuff can be both demeaning and correct at the same time.

    One symbolic part of friendship is tolerating comments that if said by anyone else is an insult. That also means that the "insulter" needs to know when to not throw that "insult" since it will be taken as an insult at that point.

    It basically falls down to what the larger society finds acceptable/tolerable or not.
    ofcourse we can never determine effectively what the intention is of the one making the comment (but the same is true about being offended, we can never know if offense is actually taken or people pretend for whatever reason), that is why people misinterpret and sometimes are offended by something that was not intended as an offense (make note, that for those who are offended, intention may not always matter, but it often does).

    Your reasoning allows the same to be said about the reception of the comment, because every comment can be perceived in many ways, surely it cannot be left up just to the one interpreting the comment. And if as you say, it cannot also be left up to the one making the comment, there must be another qualifying factor.

    But Im not sure if it cannot be left solely up to the one making the comment (lets call him the commentator). The interpretator can make mistakes in interpreting the intent of the commentator (he can however make no mistake in interpreting what the comment means to him at that point in that context). The commentator however cannot mistake his intent (unless we are going to factor in unconsious decisions, which i would leave out for now).

    Neither approach is flawless, putting the power to qualify something as an insult in the hands of the interpretor would result as someone else pointed out, in everything possibly being an insult, in a justice analogy, everything you say and do could be a crime and you would always be guilty. If you put the burden soley with the commentator, then to make another justice analogy, everyone could always claim innocence, and nobody could ever prove the contrary.

    so what could that other factor be, it could be what society finds acceptable or not, so it would come down to some sort of convention to function as an objective anchor between two subjective points. But there is a problem with that convention, how does society decide what is acceptable and what not?

    I have to go now :/ will come back later to finish this post.
    Last edited by The Stranger; 11-26-2013 at 13:57.

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    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    But insulting is an act. You simply can't help accidently offending people because you never know what offends them. For that we have 'being offended'. But an insult is a concious act, it serves only one purpose, to insult, it's an act of hostility. Wether or not something is percieved as being insulting is in the eye of the beholder.
    Last edited by Fragony; 11-26-2013 at 14:50.

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    Mr Self Important Senior Member Beskar's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Intention is the biggest thing, though some people are naturally cruel in their expressions which people are then forced to adapt to due to pressures of society forcing them to be in proximity with.

    Some one once said a story how this person worked hard all day then managed to sit down for their unpaid break, starting to get their lunch together when another employee from a different department came along and said "Wow, I wish I got paid to sit on my bum all day". Obviously the person who was sat down got very offended and cursed the person who said it, then their boss had to calm them down saying about how the other employee is always curt and doesn't mean anything by it, and they should take it as a joke.

    Personally, in the example, I disagreed with the boss. The other employee was not being 'curt', they were frankly just rude and wrong but the person agreed with the Boss saying how X is always like that is everyone and Y shouldn't react to it, but I fail to see why it makes it okay for X to do that.
    Last edited by Beskar; 11-26-2013 at 16:44.
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    I'm not sure whether it is understood here that the speaker, the hearer, and convention can all be at odds in a given situation, and that it is possible to create an insult that is an insult from three perspectives simultaneously - and have it be different for each perspective simultaneously.
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    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fragony View Post
    But insulting is an act. You simply can't help accidently offending people because you never know what offends them. For that we have 'being offended'. But an insult is a concious act, it serves only one purpose, to insult, it's an act of hostility. Wether or not something is percieved as being insulting is in the eye of the beholder.
    im inclined to agree, but it does create situations such as beskar describes where some people just go around being ***holes to people and then claim it was just a joke and they shouldnt get all upset when people get offended. A way to arm yourself against this is to decide upon certain standards or conventions which must be upheld by both parties, but this makes us come back to where i previously left off, how do we decide this. And how adequate is this solution, it seems to me that convention is never capable of fully dealing with the diversity of life. There will always be exceptions and special cases, and how do we proceed then? What happens when people constantly refuse to meet these standards, can we use force to make them comply? Or must we suffice with ignoring them, banning them from the community.

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  19. #19
    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    If you insult someone youstill acknowedge someone's existence, why bother otherwise. Why give a crap when being insulted. It's a different kind of courtesy to insult someone.
    Last edited by Fragony; 11-26-2013 at 16:42.

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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    I'm not sure whether it is understood here that the speaker, the hearer, and convention can all be at odds in a given situation, and that it is possible to create an insult that is an insult from three perspectives simultaneously - and have it be different for each perspective simultaneously.
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Good enough. I'm not fussy.
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    Know the dark side Member Askthepizzaguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Something can be an insult when it is not a criticism of a person's ideas or behaviors, but an attack on the person, or it is a deliberately inaccurate label of the person.

    Examples being: "That idea is bad for the economy" is not an insult. It's a criticism of an idea. "Your ideas are all stupid" is an attack on the person.

    "You are a jackass" is a deliberately inaccurate label. Therefore, it's intended to be offensive.

    There are other ways to insult people, such as saying their parents are sub-human or inferior, things of that nature.

    Some things people find insulting, but that is because some of their ideas are open to criticism in the marketplace of ideas, and they can't handle that, and have no business being on the internets.
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    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Askthepizzaguy View Post

    Examples being: "That idea is bad for the economy" is not an insult. It's a criticism of an idea. "Your ideas are all stupid" is an attack on the person.
    That would still be seen as critism here in Dutchland, not as a personal attack. I would call it an observation if the ideas are indeed stupid, maybe not the most polite way to say it, but it's not an insult imho. Of course we have kinda a reputation for not being very subtle. 'Your an idiot' is an insult (non taken), but 'your ideas are idiotic' is not.

  24. #24
    Strategist and Storyteller Member Myth's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    When it's intended. Stupid people can possibly miss a cunning insult or jab at themselves. If someone smarter explains how they were insulted they have the right to claim it was an insult.

    However if a moron takes something as an insult because they are too narrow minded, dumb, uneducated etc. to understand what you meant, it's not your fault that they are a moron and thus should not be held liable for some imagined offense.

    Having been the victim of the later I can say it's pretty annoying.
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    master of the pwniverse Member Fragony's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Myth View Post
    When it's intended. Stupid people can possibly miss a cunning insult or jab at themselves. If someone smarter explains how they were insulted they have the right to claim it was an insult.

    However if a moron takes something as an insult because they are too narrow minded, dumb, uneducated etc. to understand what you meant, it's not your fault that they are a moron and thus should not be held liable for some imagined offense.

    Having been the victim of the later I can say it's pretty annoying.
    Arrogance looks so good on you, but I agree. Intelligence or the lack of it it can be found in having a sense of humour I think. If you don't have that you are just playing by the numbers without understanding any outcome. The greatest genius of our time is the Marquis de Sade who was shamelesly hedonistic, imho of course.
    Last edited by Fragony; 12-02-2013 at 16:57. Reason: Lol @ spelling

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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    When you call someone a moron, that's an insult.


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    Praefectus Fabrum Senior Member Anime BlackJack Champion, Flash Poker Champion, Word Up Champion, Shape Game Champion, Snake Shooter Champion, Fishwater Challenge Champion, Rocket Racer MX Champion, Jukebox Hero Champion, My House Is Bigger Than Your House Champion, Funky Pong Champion, Cutie Quake Champion, Fling The Cow Champion, Tiger Punch Champion, Virus Champion, Solitaire Champion, Worm Race Champion, Rope Walker Champion, Penguin Pass Champion, Skate Park Champion, Watch Out Champion, Lawn Pac Champion, Weapons Of Mass Destruction Champion, Skate Boarder Champion, Lane Bowling Champion, Bugz Champion, Makai Grand Prix 2 Champion, White Van Man Champion, Parachute Panic Champion, BlackJack Champion, Stans Ski Jumping Champion, Smaugs Treasure Champion, Sofa Longjump Champion Seamus Fermanagh's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Husar View Post
    When you call someone a moron, that's an insult.
    Agreed, but are you insulting that person....or morons?
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    Iron Fist Senior Member Husar's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus Fermanagh View Post
    Agreed, but are you insulting that person....or morons?
    AFAIK both since moron is a derogatory term for mentally retarded persons. Retard has the same negative connotation though so maybe mentally challenged would be a term that is not insulting to "morons" without wanting to be incredibly PC. Using moron as an insult is as insulting to morons as using gay as an insult is insulting to gay people because by using the term as an insult you insinuate that it's a bad/inferior/disgusting thing. And this is insulting if the group of people did not choose to be that way and your classification is needlessly harsh. One could say that a mentally challenged person is indeed inferior but it's the mean-spirited nature of using the word as an insult that actually makes it insulting.

    So yeah, quite a good point there Seamus.
    Last edited by Husar; 12-03-2013 at 01:47.


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  29. #29

    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    AFAIK both since moron is a derogatory term for mentally retarded persons. Retard has the same negative connotation though so maybe mentally challenged would be a term that is not insulting to "morons" without wanting to be incredibly PC. Using moron as an insult is as insulting to morons as using gay as an insult is insulting to gay people because by using the term as an insult you insinuate that it's a bad/inferior/disgusting thing. And this is insulting if the group of people did not choose to be that way and your classification is needlessly harsh. One could say that a mentally challenged person is indeed inferior but it's the mean-spirited nature of using the word as an insult that actually makes it insulting.

    So yeah, quite a good point there Seamus.
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  30. #30
    Strategist and Storyteller Member Myth's Avatar
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    Default Re: when is something an insult?

    Well knowing someone is a moron is not the same as stating it. I was illustrating my point And I used the word as a generalization for stupid, I didn't know it was synonymous with "retard".

    But, the same thing can happen because of the language barrier. Imagine a foreign exchange student coming to the USA (for example) and someone telling him he looks like a fruitcake. He might take it as a positive thing. It was an intended insult for all to hear, meant to ridicule that person. If someone else who knows what that meant explains it to him, he has every right to be offended.
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