Damning with faint praise
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History of the term
The concept can be found in the work of the Hellenistic sophist and philosopher Favorinus (c. 110 AD) who observed that faint and half-hearted praise was more harmful than loud and persistent abuse.
- Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
- And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
- Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
- Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.
- — "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot" by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
- When needs he must, yet faintly then he praises,
- Somewhat the deed, much more the means he raises:
- So marreth what he makes, and praising most, dispraises.
- — "The Purple Island" by Phineas Fletcher
- A is writing a testimonial about a pupil who is a candidate for a philosophy job, and his letter reads as follows: "Dear Sir, Mr. X's command of English is excellent, and his attendance at tutorials has been regular. Yours, etc."
- ". . . [Cauz] said a big problem was that many users considered Wikipedia to be 'fine' or 'good enough'."
- 1917, Lucy Maud Montgomery, "The Alpine Path: The Story Of My Career":
- "They wrote that “Our readers report that they find some merit in your story, but not enough to warrant its acceptance.”
- ". . . when [George] W. [Bush] could avoid it no longer, he mentioned Vice [President Dick Cheney], damning with faint praise: “Dick Cheney’s advice was consistent and strong.”"
- Ichikawa, Sanki. (1964). The Kenkyusha Dictionary of Current English Idioms, pp. 153–154.
- Ammer, Christine. (2001). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, p. 153.
- Walsh, William Shepard. (1908). The International Encyclopedia of Prose and Poetical Quotations from the Literature of the World, p. 586, citing Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae. xi, 3, 1.
- Walsh, William Shepard. (1909). Handy-book of Literary Curiosities, p. 211.
- Pope, Alexander. (1901) The Rape of the Lock: An Essay on Man and Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, p. 97; n.b., see line 201 in "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot."
- Walsh, William Shepard, Handy-book of Literary Curiosities,pp. 211–212; n.b., see Canto vii in "The Purple Island."
- Grice, H. P. (1975), Logic and conversation (PDF)
- Ammer, Christine. (1997). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-395-72774-4; OCLC 228041670
- Browne, William Hardcastle. (1900). Odd Derivations of Words, Phrases, Slang, Synonyms and Proverbs. Philadelphia: Arnold. OCLC 23900443
- Hirsch, Eric Donald Hirsch, Joseph F. Kett and James S. Trefil. (2002). The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-618-22647-4; ISBN 978-0-9657664-3-2; OCLC 50166721
- Ichikawa, Sanki. (1964). The Kenkyusha Dictionary of Current English Idioms. Tokyo: Kenkyusha. OCLC 5056712
- Pope, Alexander and Henry Walcott Boynton. (1901). The Rape of the Lock. An essay on Man and Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Co. OCLC 3147633
- Walsh, William Shepard. (1892). Handy-book of Literary Curiosities. Philadelphia: Lippincott.OCLC 247190584
- __________. (1908). The International Encyclopedia of Prose and Poetical Quotations from the Literature of the World. Toronto: C. Clark. OCLC 22391024
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- Alexander Pope. "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," annotated text of the poem