in Wacky Word Wednesday

Some people say the meanest things but in such a nice way that you don’t even notice the insult. They’re so polite they could say whatever they wanted and nobody would take offense – even if the speaker intended them to. There’s a word for these sorts of cleverly biting comments and it’s this week’s Wacky Word – asteism.

quo topAsteism

[æstɪˌɪzm]

-noun

An ingeniously polite insult.

quo botAsteism

Normal people without the gift of supernaturally fast mental reflexes are often left thinking of their asteisms a half-hour too late to use them. Those that are quick-witted enough to deliver these wonderfully genteel mockeries, on the other hand, are often immortalized in quote books – if not in histories. For example:

“I’ve had a wonderful evening; but this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; some whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde

“She looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.” – Jonathan Swift

“He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill

While these asteisms are funny to read, the majority of people would rather avoid insulting people. We carefully consider our words and usually try to say things that make others feel good. But some people have a harder time with this. Those on the autism spectrum have difficulty interpreting social cues and situations, which can often result in them saying things that others take to be deliberately insulting. Asteisms, on the other hand, require the speaker to have a keen understanding of the social environment, the cultural nuances of the chosen words, and must master their own social cues for perfect delivery.

Here are a few examples of this week’s word in action:

  • Alma’s asteism went unnoticed by the majority of the partygoers, but drew snickers from the professors.
  • Dan was halfway down the stairs when he thought of the perfect asteism to have given the snarky waiter, but it was already too late.

Join us next week for another exciting edition of Wacky Word Wednesday!

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