how to be offensive: a guide for the polite

[another outpouring from skyblueteapot]


A lovely Japanese lady, who must rank among politest people on the planet, has asked me to scrutinise her forums posts and let her know if any of them are offensive. Now, I doubt that she has ever written or said anything deliberately offensive in her life, certainly not to strangers on the internet. I said as much to her (tact is not my strong point).


She said of course not, not intentionally. But how can she tell if, writing in a foreign language, she unintentionally makes an offensive remark? How can she tell what is considered unacceptable in Britain, in North America, indeed to anyone, in any part of the world? Nothing that I have said about the general reasonableness of people or the unimportance of offending people who don’t know where you live has satisfied her. She wants a clear action plan for avoiding doing something she has never done and would never dream of doing.


This is tricky. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, it is a three-teapot problem. I have thought very hard over a lot of tea and come up with this idea: to teach her how to be deliberately offensive, so that she can recognise when she is doing it and so satisfy herself that she is not doing it.


I’m not an expert on offensive behaviour myself (it’s not a compulsory subject in British schools), so I can only offer the following simple suggestions.


Consistently spell the person’s name wrong.


If you quote their words, get them wrong. Make sure you give the impression that you did not read their words carefully.


If you like what they write, steal it. Put their comments on your web site without permission. Retell their best jokes and pretend you thought them up.


Tell them that they are ignorant of some common knowledge, like rules of good behaviour, grammar or punctuation. Telling them that they don’t understand the history of their own country is a good move.


Question their mental state, also that of their political and religious leaders.


Make public any personal information you may have about them, in an unflattering way.


Make condescending remarks about their age, sex, race and religion. If possible, get at least one of these wrong. Say things like “I don’t expect a kid like you to understand this, but….” to someone who a 27 year-old, call a Canadian an American, etc.


Deliberately misunderstand at least one point that they make every time you respond to them.


Either misspell your post to them (to show that you couldn’t be bothered to check your words before posting them) or correct their spelling (to imply that they are too lazy to check their words before posting them). Be sure to correct their spelling if they are writing in their native language.


Express all your opinions as facts and say that anyone who disputes them is an idiot/bigot/heathen. Naturally, you should at the same time dispute every opinion expressed by your opponent.


Throw in very extremely unecessarily EMPHATIC language, such as &*$%ing OBSCENTITIES, CAPITALS and lots of EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!! This makes you look like an UNREASONABLE and VERY ANGRY person!


you could also try typing everything in lower case very long sentences with no punctuation at all which makes you look very mad and also unreasonable but not very angry.


I shall be setting all my politest and most charming students the task of writing me an offensive post. There may be a prize for the best entry. Watch this space…..

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2 thoughts on “How to be offensive: a guide for the polite

  1. Steve Kaufmann

    Helen, I find it offensive that you would describe my discussion style in such detail, as if you had me in mind, and then have the gall to call it offensive. Are you a complete nincompoop? Do you know how to tie your shoelaces? Are you English? That figures. Grow up you smarty pants teenager.Really, I am quite offended.

  2. Helen Burgess

    The correct spelling is a bit of giveaway that the writer is not actually frothing at the mouth. You can always trying ending with a maniacal laugh: AHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! More than seven exclamation marks gives you a double score!!!!


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