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Damned by Faint Praise

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"For an amateur production, the color came out very well...perhaps by scrapping the soundtrack and running it with subtitles or dubbing it in Esperanto, it could be promoted as a foreign art film of some sort or other."

Sometimes, we can't just say something is bad. Perhaps we are being nice, or perhaps we are in a situation where negative comments are frowned upon. It could be that we are expected to give a positive response. Or maybe we’re just Trolls or Caustic Critics who feel like being clever with our insults. Break out the faint praise!


To damn something with faint praise is to point out that something is mediocre or worse by praising it in ways that make its weaknesses clear. To say that a computer "looks sleek" as the primary point of praise would indicate that it is not that amazing when you actually use it as a computer, for example. To describe a person as punctual when asked about how they perform at work carries the heavy implication that this is their only valuable trait.

An alternate version of the trope (frequently used in Caustic Critic reviews) is to condemn something by praising it in comparison to something else that's widely accepted as being not at all good. For example: "This movie has a more coherent plot than Plan 9 from Outer Space."

Related to many Insult Tropes; can be the result of a Compliment Backfire. May take the form of an Overly Narrow Superlative or a Trivially Obvious statement. May also, in a funeral setting, result from Never Speak Ill of the Dead if the deceased is not particularly missed. The Four Point Scale may result in this, as high scores are given to things that are just okay so that fans see a 7 or 8 as a "bad" score. Second Place Is for Losers is also related, as a second place trophy by definition means you didn't do as good as the first place winner.


Compare Damned by a Fool's Praise and The One Thing I Don't Hate About You. See also Wants a Prize for Basic Decency, So Okay, It's Average, Not Like Other Girls, and You Are a Credit to Your Race. Contrast with Stealth Insult, which also damns people through "praise" - in that case, though, the praise is illusionary rather than merely weak. Sarcasm Mode is also a sister trope. Those who confuse faint praise with actual praise will claim that It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars.



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  • Chevrolet runs a TV commercial where it shows all of the cars it makes that get better EPA estimated mileage than the equivalent Honda. At the end of the commercial, the announcer says, "There's one thing Honda makes that we can't compete with. It's even self-propelled," and the camera pans down to show a Honda lawnmower.
  • The jargon used by real-estate agents effectively does this by trying to turn everything into a compliment. "Cozy" just means too small, "a good fixer-upper" means it's a dump, an "efficient" kitchen means it's only big enough for one person. Specific examples include:
    • The Simpsons: "That house is on fire!" "'Motivated seller'!"
  • The Dutch Comedy show Koefnoen did a similar sketch where two obnoxious yuppies "translated" every selling point a real estate agent gave them, ("Good access by car and public transport." "Highway through the back yard, foundations ruined by the subway line.") turning into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. As they walked away satisfied, they decided they were going to buy it anyway.
  • Fred Dagg on the subject: "Like so many other jobs in this wonderful society of ours, the basic function of the real estate agent is to increase the price of the article without actually producing anything, and as a result it has a lot to do with communication, terminology, and calling a spade a delightfully bucolic colonial winner facing north and offering a unique opportunity to the handyman."
  • Freakonomics includes a whole chapter on real estate listings, pointing out that, unless it's an objective, physical description of the house itself, everything should be taken as faint praise. Eg: "granite countertops" is good, "cozy" and "cute" are so vague as to be meaningless, "good neighborhood" means the house is terrible but there are nicer houses around. If you see an exclamation point, stay far away (it means the agent is faking enthusiasm to cover for a total lack of real qualities).
  • The Lying Ape says an apartment described as "cozy" meant you could cook a meal, watch television and answer the front door without getting up from the toilet.
  • Houses in less-desirable neighborhoods will usually get write-ups along the lines of "close to schools, parks and shopping!" (since that's true of practically every neighborhood in any good-sized city).
  • The Finnish government ran a study of the quality of all spectacles on sale in the country. The results concluded that they were all as good as one another. Newcomers to the market Specsavers ran a front-page advert congratulating a rival optical chain on being just as good as them. Specsavers' products are about a third of the price.
  • The DVD Verdict review for Battlefield Earth comments that "You know you have a stinker the size of Texas on your hands when the best review quote they could find for the box was '...great scene transitions and some of the better special effects of the year...'" The reviewer himself takes it even further in "The Evidence" part of his review (where praise of a film's good qualities normally goes) by going, "Umm...lemme see...the DVD itself is a picture disc. And there are end credits. See, I can spot the good in everything if I try."
  • The box of the film Dragon Kingdom lists a review quote claiming that it has "more dragons than The Hobbit films combined!" Ignoring that the presence of lots of dragons isn't exactly a universal standard of quality, those remotely familiar with The Hobbit will tell you that there's a grand total of one dragon that appears. So basically, the most positive thing they could say about the film is that there are at least two dragons in it.
  • A review quoted on the back cover of a Lensman novel by E.E. "Doc" Smith reads: "Fine for science fiction addicts." It's like an endorsement for methadone.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Doujin Work, when Najimi shows Tsuyuri and Justice her first story, the first thing they compliment is the quality of the paper.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, after Einhart easily defeats Vivio in their first sparring match, Vivio asks if she thought she did poorly. Einhart replies that Vivio did well for someone who does not take Strike Arts seriously. Vivio gets Einhart's drift and asks for a rematch after she's had time to prepare herself enough to make a better showing.
  • In Silver Spoon, when Yugo looks at Aki's grades, the only thing he finds to say is that she is better than Tokiwa. It doesn't do much to cheer her up.
  • In Assassination Classroom, Okajima reassures Kayano that "someday, somewhere" her body type will be considered desirable.
  • In Saga of Tanya the Evil, Tanya, who hates German food, but has the misfortune of being reincarnated in an alternate WWI era Germany, tells a general she's dining with that the fresh and hot German cuisine she's being served causes her to remember, her time on the front-lines "fondly." As in she would rather be eating cold army rations than the high-end slop she's being served. Though luckily, the general and the other officers present take it as a sincere compliment.
  • The Useless Senpai and The Talented Kouhai has Hiromi Tsukioka (the kouhai, who's The Ace at basketball) tell Shiori Ochiai (the senpai, who likes playing, but is terrible) the following when Tsukioka sees Ochiai trying to skip out on practice after some bullying from her kouhai. That said, Tsukioka says what she does because she doesn't want Ochiai to give up on the team.
    Tsukioka: When I asked the teacher what your strong point is, senpai, she went silent for five minutes. Then she said that your strong point is that you never skip practice.
    Ochiai: I'm not happy to hear that at all... Don't I have any other strong points?
  • A chapter of the Osomatsu-san manga has Choromatsu start off comforting a pair of ugly girls who were insulted on Valentine's Day with an apology for it stinging more than it usually does.
  • A subversion occurs in chapter 17 of Delicious in Dungeon, when Marcille says Laios' sister Falin said good things about him when they were in school together. Cue a flash-back thought bubble of Falin telling Marcille that "he does a fantastic impression of a dog!" It seems to a one-off joke at the time, but later he uses his dog impressions to intimidate a shapeshifter into revealing itself, frightens off a pack of dire wolves, and when rescuing Marcille from the grip of nightmares, his dream-form is a dog (a majestic wolf from his perspective, a dopey mutt from Marcille's perspective).
  • Bloom Into You:
    • Sayaka's ex-girlfriend meets up with her by chance, and apologizes for getting Sayaka interested in girls and hopes she's back to normal (i.e. heterosexual), since she believes that their relationship is merely a phase. Sayaka, while upset by the older girl's apology because she's still a lesbian, tells the other girl that she doesn't know how she ever developed feelings for her in the first place, and says that "Still... I suppose I'm grateful to you- in a way."
    • A more comedic example happens in a bonus section included in Volume 7, in which the cast's grades in five different subjects are shown in a pentagon graph, along with comments on their strengths and weaknesses. Akari, who is the worst student in the cast, is said to be "decent at biology."
  • Chapter 164 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War opens up with Fujiwara complaining how she hasn't been getting any respect from the other members of the student council lately, and Iino tries to cheer her up by saying "I haven't lost my respect for you yet, Fujiwara-senpai!"
    Fujiwara: Yet?
  • In the Tower of God anime,note  in the first episode, Yuri asks Evan to evaluate Bam — who's technically an Irregular, and they're usually insanely powerful — for any hidden powers, and all he can say is that he seems agile.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America: When Cap meets John Jameson, son of J. Jonah Jameson, the conversation quickly turns to how ol' J.J. feels about most superheroes. John assures Cap that his dad once said something nice about him. Once. (and by Jonah standards, that's practically gushing.)
  • Clone Wars Adventures: In Appetite for Adventure, Obi-Wan tells poor Dex (who put himself through hell getting Dractuvian Cave Slugs to serve his friend) the only reason Obi claimed them to be the best thing he ate on Dractu was because the food there overall was disgusting.
  • In DC Super Hero Girls graphic novel "Space Out", Green Lantern Jessica Cruz botches her first combat simulation. Coach Wildcat tries to reassure her: "Don't worry about it, kiddo. It wasn't the worst first try I've ever seen."
  • In a Josie and the Pussycats comic, all the Pussycats can say about a band that wanted to open for them is "Um... they have nice hair."
  • Knives Chau takes this route in Scott Pilgrim when telling the newly formed Shatterband what she thought of their first performance ("You guys have so much potential!"). Young Neil opts for Brutal Honesty instead.
    • Ramona at one point tells Scott that he's the nicest guy she's ever dated.note 
  • Starscream exploits this a bit in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, noting that he is "the best leader in the history of Cybertron." In a vacuum, this would be pretty high praise, and seem rather gracious to his reign (which was seriously corrupt, marked by constant disasters and scandals, and ended with him being given a life sentence), but everyone else was a warmonger, an imperialist, a segregationist, or a downright supervillain, so "best" is more like "least awful" — and all he had to do to earn that was to not try and kill everyone at any point.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes normally explain to tryout members why they aren't accepted, whether it's poor temperament, weak powers, or lack of control. In the case of Arm-Fall-Off Boy, they forewent any criticism and just thanked him for being willing to show up.
  • The Punisher: The Platoon: Cuong is second in command of a frontline military unit, and when asked what his good points are, Colonel Giap merely says that Cuong loyally follows his orders and that Cuong's father is a general.
  • Rick and Morty (Oni): Morty considers it a win that Rick would rather kill a bunch of robot doppelgangers of him at Rickworld than him specifically.
  • An issue of Nova features an inversion of this, where the titular character ends up being praised by faint damnation. When he's hooking up with his old friends from the New Warriors, they gently make fun of the fact that he's grown far beyond them after he Took a Level in Badass in Annihilation, comparing him to being the one guy in the band who actually got famous. Nova attempts to nod off the praise by calling back to an earlier issue when he met the Silver Surfer and basically got his ass kicked... at which they point out that casually having a hostile encounter with the Silver Surfer and living to tell about it is pretty damn indicative of how strong he's become, and joke about it as if he just met a major celebrity.
  • In the final battle of Miracleman, Miraclewoman tries to fight the maddened Kid Miracleman. Miracleman's internal monologue notes that "of the two, she was more graceful and controlled, more skilled and more intelligent in her attack, her moves more subtle and precise. Judging by those terms, I'd say she won." It then becomes very clear that those are the only terms under which it could be said she won that battle, as he casually defeats her in about three panels.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin reasons that Santa will deem him nice because he hasn't committed any heinous acts such as murder.
  • In one strip of Foxtrot Paige gives her English essay to Roger for reviewing instead of Andy. Roger proceeds to compliment the penmanship and neat margins of the paper while saying absolutely nothing about the content of the essay itself. Paige doesn't seem to mind, as she proclaims to her offscreen mother that she prefers her dad's critiquing style.
  • One particular Garfield strip went thusly:
    Garfield: Odie, you're smarter than you look.
    Odie: [begins panting happily]
    Garfield: [to audience] Although he's still dumb enough to think that's a compliment.
  • A meta-example involving both of the above strips: Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson once "complimented" the Garfield strip as "consistent."
  • In Bloom County, at the Premature Eulogy for Steve Dallas, Portnoy pompously begins a speech "about the finer qualities of our good, deceased friend." After two Beat Panels, Opus (who in the previous strip makes a quixotic effort to Never Speak Ill of the Dead) suggests, "He could spit forty feet." Portnoy quickly and loudly wraps the speech up: "For which we loved him like a brother. Good night."

    Fan Works 
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, Teo says that sea prunes are not the worst thing he's eaten, and considering that he's had to eat grass as a refugee, this isn't saying much.
  • My Dark King features an inversion, with Supreme King Judai claiming to be "a fair bit weaker" than the Crimson Dragon. The Crimson Dragon is a 5,000-year-old Mesoamerican deity that regularly matches and exceeds entities of world-destroying power, so the fact that Judai is even comparable is practically a Badass Boast.
  • The Second Try: Rei resorts to this to critique a drawing of her. It works because the artist is only three.
    "How you like it?" she eventually ended Rei's wondering.
    Taken aback, the teen didn't answer immediately. Being honest was likely to hurt the girl's feelings, and Rei didn't want that. But wouldn't she also do the same by lying to her?
    "The... shade of blue is well chosen," she eventually settled for.
  • The Kiss:
    Harry: Oh man, I forgot all about classes. Excuse me while I go find Neville or Dean and see what I missed. You think Ron will help me with my homework?
    Ginny: I thought you wanted to pass? Get the twins to help you, instead.
    Mrs. Weasley: Ginny! Show your brother some support. He might not be the student Bill was, or the athlete Charlie was, or a scholar like Percy... at least he's quieter than the twins.
  • Lily, in The Peace Not Promised, shows off the domestic spells she's been learning by making lunch. Severus, being the serious and socially awkward fellow that he is, evaluates it as, "You're not a terrible cook," and then immediately realises how that sounds and fumbles for words to patch it up. Lily is a match for him, though, responding that he can be really adorable, "Not in the puppies and kittens way, of course. More like if a Boggart decided to give up its day job and try its hand at being human."
  • A Man of Iron: When civil war breaks out in Westeros, Jonos Bracken initially supports Renly, but later clarifies it was only because he was "the best of a bad lot," with the alternatives beingStannis and Joffrey.
  • In Bleach: Fan Works, Oshikko says that Jolene Meyers' fanfic is "trying to mimic that shit Twilight." He then says she's successful, but that isn't exactly hard.
  • In Peanuts fanfic Everybody's Gotta Leave Sometime, as the gang is saying their goodbyes to Charlie Brown, Violet praises Charlie by telling that, all things considered, he is kind of a nice guy.
    Violet: Yeah. For a round-headed kid with no potential at all, you're kind of a nice guy. Kind of, I mean.
    Charlie Brown: [awed] Gee, girls, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me.
  • In A Thing of Vikings, this trope is explicitly referenced by Stoick when Jonna (a lesbian) thanks him for not even trying to talk her into sleeping with him as a precondition of service. Stoick accepts the compliment in spirit it was given (honestly complimentary), but is a bit irked at being compared with "one of those men." Of course, Jonna brought it up as a lead-in for her next topic—her need for an heir for her clan. After giving Stoick, ahem, right of first refusal, Stoick does a Spit Take, turns her down, and beats a hasty retreat. Gobber finds the whole thing hysterical.
  • The Victors Project: District 2 Victor Ares introduces Haymitch and Chaff by saying, "They ain't bad folk when their sober, which is never."
  • In Fate/Zero fanfic Fate/Desiderantes Affectibus, Waver Velvet attempts to mourn Kayneth, his old magic teacher, without describing his magic (due to the Masquerade). His teacher was a Smug Snake par excellence and they hated each other, making this rather difficult. Eventually, he settles on "his teachings have had a great impact on my life"—which is Metaphorically True, as Waver entered a deadly magical war solely because he hated Kayneth and his teachings immensely and wanted to prove him wrong.
  • An unusual example from the Zootopia fanfic A New Dawn. Gideon Grey is trying to help Dawn Bellwether to reform herself, and at one point he asks her to say something nice. Her response is, "For a fox, you're... not as ugly as Judy's boyfriend," (referring to Nick). It seems like a clear invoking of this trope... except that Nick is slimmer and would normally be considered more traditionally attractive than Gideon. This actually serves as a hint that Dawn is beginning to fall for Gideon, even if she herself has yet to realize it.
  • In The Concubine Mo Chronicles, Wei Wuxian expects for the new Grand Chancellor to be more righteous than his predecessors. Since Wen Ruohan murdered the former Emperor before causing a Civil War out of unbridled ambition and Jin Guangshan was an unrepentant lecher who thought bribery was the answer to everything, it's not as hard a condition to fulfill as it seems.
  • In Chapter 15 of BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant, Makoto comments that Noel's normally Lethal Chef cooking skills actually did improve from last time...but only because her cooking didn't actually kill anything.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Little Mermaid: Eric is presented with a large, extremely gaudy statue of himself and raises his eyebrow, less than pleased, while his dog Max snarls at the statue in complete disapproval.
    Eric: Uh, gee, Grim. It's''s really something.
  • Parodied in The Emperor's New Groove, where Kuzco insults a row of girls with offhand remarks, most of which are directly insulting, but to the final one he says, in very sarcastic tones, "Let me guess, you have a great personality?" Even better is the fact that they all look identical. The fact that the other girls have to physically restrain the last one to keep her from attacking Kuzco shows that she's well aware it wasn't a compliment.
  • Disney's Aladdin:
    • An unintentional example of this nearly trips up our hero.
    Aladdin: Princess Jasmine, you're
    Genie: [whispering suggestions in his ear] Wonderful! Magnificent! Glorious!... Punctual!
    Aladdin: [blurts] Punctual!
    Princess Jasmine: [bewildered] Punctual?
    Genie: Sorry.
    Aladdin: Uh... uhh... beautiful!
    Genie: Nice recovery.
  • Anastasia:
    Vlad: Well?
    Sophie: Well, she answered every question.
  • Shrek: As Shrek leads Donkey through a swamp, Donkey complains about its miserable state and wonders aloud who would be crazy enough to live there. Shrek replies that this is actually his home. Donkey immediately showers the swamp with (rather weak) compliments.
    • In Shrek 2, Fiona's parents are shocked that she has married an ogre, and she is asked where she lives.
    Fiona: Well... Shrek owns his own land. [nervous laugh] Don't you, honey?
    Shrek: Oh, yes. Heh-heh. It's in an... enchanted forest. Abundant in... squirrels, and... cute little duckies, and...
    Donkey: What?! [laughs] I know you ain't talkin' about the swamp!
  • The trailer for Bébé's Kids ends with the line "It's animation..." Gives you an idea of the overall quality if this is the best they can say about it. To be fair it's actually supposed to be "it's animation... with an attitude" but a technical glitch caused it to cut off. This was later fixed, but most (including The Nostalgia Critic who popularized the glitched version) would agree the original glitched trailer was a lot more accurate than the fixed one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Amadeus, this trope practically defines Mozart's relationship with Salieri. In one scene he says to Salieri, "I did some variations on a piece of yours. A funny little tune, but it yielded some good things." In another scene, after Mozart attends a performance of Salieri's music, Mozart compliments him with "I never knew music like that were possible. One hears such sounds and what can one say, but - Salieri!"
  • In Bridget Jones's Diary, Jeffrey Archer makes a cameo appearance as himself at a book launch. Bridget, who's giving the introductory speech, spots him in the crowd just after she's described the book her company is publishing as "the greatest book of our time" ... and goes on to tell Archer that "yours aren't bad either".
  • In Tim Burton's Ed Wood, the only positive thing found in any review on one of Ed Wood's plays is "The soldiers' costumes are very realistic". The director, being Ed Wood, desperately tries to spin this into something positive later on: "Victor Crowley himself praised its realism".
  • In Kill Bill, Bill, when asked for his opinion about the Bride's fiancé (whom he later more honestly describes as a "fucking jerk"), says "I like his hair."
  • In Robert Altman's Popeye, Olive Oyl sings "He's Large," which is faint praise for her fiancé Bluto. The only positives she can come up with are his large stature and the fact that "he's mine." Her friends giggle, "You can have him!"
  • This is Spın̈al Tap: One critic praises the band as "very punctual". They're also quite proud of their reputation as "England's loudest band."
  • Apparently the best that whoever designed the DVD case for Beverly Hills Chihuahua could come up with was "The Greatest Chihuahua Movie of All Time." Considering that the only real competition for that title are the sequels, that's not a difficult feat.
  • In Chaplin, Charlie admits that he's marrying his very young lover because he thinks she's carrying his child. When he insists "she's really not that bad", his friend quips "Spoken like a man madly in love."
  • In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Tucker's not great at pep-talks.
    Tucker: You are a good-lookin' man... more or less. You got a damn good heart. [Beat] That's two things right there.
  • Familiarity with this trope causes confusion in this scene from When Harry Met Sally..., in which Harry tries to set up his friend on a blind date with Sally:
    Jess: So you're saying she's not that attractive?
    Harry: No, I told you she's attractive.
    Jess: But you also said she has a good personality.
    Harry: She has a good personality. (pause) What?
    Jess: When someone's not attractive, they're always described as having a good personality. [...] So which is she?
    Harry: Attractive.
    Jess: But not beautiful, right? (gets a death glare from Harry)
  • In Office Space, Tom has an idea for a fad toy he calls the "Jump to Conclusions Mat." Peter flat out tells him it's a terrible idea. Later on in the film, Tom is showing off a finished prototype of the mat. Peter, trying to be kind, says "It's... exactly as you described."
  • Dance of the Dead: An accidental version. While they're surrounded by zombies, Gwen finds out Steven had wanted to go to prom that afternoon. Steven says that he chickened out due to believing she would have said no and Gwen replies (with an earnest smile) that if it was a choice between being at prom with him and being chased by zombies, she would have chosen him. Steven takes it in the spirit it was meant rather than how it came out.
  • In Poor Pretty Eddie, Liz's opinion on Eddie's off-key singing is "It's better than lots that I've heard before."

  • In the Boojumverse, Christian Cultists are known for being eager to speak well of everyone. Thus, when the only praise they can give Station Master Lee is to say that she doesn't actively persecute them, Izrael knows that Lee must be a very terrible Station Master indeed.
  • In The Caine Mutiny, the protagonist, Willie Keith, is horrified to find that he has been rated as "Above average" (meaning generally useless, despite it actually being a 3/5 rating) on his service testimonial. Lt. Commander DeVriess adds that Keith "[...] seems to have the potential for becoming a capable officer [...]." It doesn't take a genius to realize that he is being disparaged.
  • For lack of anything better to say, Jack Ryback from Mike Nelson's Death Rat! at one point earnestly praises his literary agent as "the most well-groomed man I've ever met."
  • Discworld:
    • In Maskerade, Agnes Nitt is tired of being described as having "a wonderful personality and good hair", as if that were all there was to her.
    • In Feet of Clay Captain Carrot is writing home and struggles to find something positive to say about Nobby, eventually settling for "is still Nobby, only more than he was."
    • Similarly in Men at Arms, when discussing who might be promoted to captain of the guard, Carrot says he's too inexperienced, Colon absolutely doesn't want the job and Nobby... "is more suited in his current role" is the description he eventually settles on.
    • In Jingo, Vetinari tells Leonard of Quirm to tell Colon and Nobby they've been selected for his top-secret mission to Klatch because of their "special qualities." While Colon thinks of it as an honor (though he's actually scared out of his mind the whole time) Nobby's the one who figures that this trope is in play. "What's so special about 'special qualities'? Limpets have special qualities."
  • The Divine Comedy: Dante starts a conversation with his guide by referring to him as "My master, you who can defeat all things except for those tenacious demons who tried to block us at the entryway," reminding his master of a damning failure in a conversation that has nothing to do with that.
  • The Drowned Cities: Mahlia informs soldier-boy Ocho that she saved his life because "you act almost human," in contrast to his even more sadistic comrades.
  • In one Elephant & Piggie book, Piggie plays the trumpet for Gerald but the sounds she makes on it are so horrifically screechy and discordant that they can in no way be described as "music". When she asks Gerald what he thought, he tactfully says that her trumpet is loud and shiny and that she holds it very well.
  • Emma: Emma really resents Mrs. Elton. Her close friends know about her opinion and they quite agree because Mrs. Elton is really obnoxious. However, Emma doesn't want other people to know about it, so she might mention that Mrs. Elton is "very pleasant and very elegantly dressed."
  • Trope Namer is Epistle to Doctor Arbuthnot by Alexander Pope:
    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.
  • The Great Brain: In Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse, Will throws an overly elaborate funeral for a dead Prospector as a lark, only to be disturbed when no one can think of a eulogy to give the dead man besides that he bathed before visiting the local brothel (unlike most prospectors).
  • In The Half-Made World, the Engines of the Line clearly do not believe in unduly flattering their minions. At one point they authorize a character's Field Promotion on the grounds that he is "not significantly less adequate" than the man he's replacing.
  • The tie-in book for Fist of Fun includes a spoof academic article that accuses the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful of doing this to God himself in its last lines:
    He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
    How great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.
    • "Well", it insists, is an insulting understatement, and suggests this alternative:
    He gave us eyes to see them, and then he made elastic
    How great is God Almighty, who has made all things fantastic.
  • In The Iliad, and many other Greek poems, most of the characters are given "epithets", descriptors that refer to their titles, feats, or skills. For instance, Agamemnon is referred to as "brilliant Agamemnon", "wide-ruling Agamemnon", or "Agamemnon son of Atreus". In general, you can tell how important or skilled a character is supposed to be by the kind of epithets they receive — characters like Achilles or Hector get a new and impressive one pretty much every time they're mentioned, while lesser characters tend to have only a few epithets that border on Trivially Obvious. Paris, though, is probably the biggest example of this trope, as his two epithets are "son of Priam" and "godlike" (meaning he looks like a god) — even though they're compliments, they're basically saying that being Priam's son and looking pretty are the only things Paris has ever accomplished. On the other hand, many of Agamemnon's listed epithets can be just snark (especially those voiced by Achilles) because Agamemnon was often shown as speaking and/or behaving exactly the opposite of those epithets (i.e. in a mean, petty or dumb manner) either just before or shortly after being thus addressed. There can be genuine praise, conventional salutations or hidden sarcasm embedded in how those characters (and the poem reciter) may address each character.
  • Played for drama with a hint of tragedy in Komarr, when Ekaterin defends her emotionally and verbally abusive husband with "He never hit me." Lampshaded when Miles, listening to this, fervently hopes that his wife will have better things to say about him.
  • Reversed by Dorothy L. Sayers in Murder Must Advertise. At one point, describing one character's comments on another, our detective protagonist Lord Peter uses the phrase "...praise him with faint damns."
  • The victim in the sci-fi murder mystery The Naked Sun, Dr. Rikaine Delmarre, is consistently praised by those who knew him as "a good Solarian" (Solaria being the planet on which the story is set). What the audience comes to realize is, while his devotion to civic duty was indeed above reproach, that's the only good thing anyone can think to say about him. In truth, a lot of people actively hated him.
  • The Name of the Rose: During a conference when they're surrounded by monks and church dignitaries, William credits the Inquisitor Bernard Gui with the biggest decision of his (William's) life. This is a compliment to everyone but Bernard and William's student Adso, who both know William's biggest decision was leaving the Inquisition...
  • In Neverwhere Door sees Richard's old girlfriend, and looking for something nice to say comes up with "She's very... clean."
  • In Jane Yolen's historical novel Queen's Own Fool, when Queen Mary is about to marry Darnley, she asks her friends' opinion of him. They don't want to upset her by pointing out that Darnley is a Jerkass, so they dodge the issue by praising his other qualities.
  • At the beginning of Reserved for the Cat, Ninette Dupond is chosen to fill in for the star, La Augustine (who has sprained her ankle) for a matinee production of the ballet La Sylphide. She has done a good job, but the following day, she and the other sujets (soloists) are reading the reviews and most of them are about the star's injury and her performance rated only, "Sujet Ninette Dupond was called upon to replace the etoile and managed a credible, if sometimes naïve, interpretation." One of the other sujets laughs and comments, "You are damned with faint praise, Ninette." (It's the one good review from La Figaro, the newspaper thought to be for artists and thinkers, that causes trouble for Ninette.)
  • Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerillas 1939-1945 by Max Hastings contains an inversion: he is generally unimpressed by the wartime spooks but describes the British secret services as "the least ineffective in the world."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Sansa is unable to think of any honest compliments for young king Joffrey except that he is "comely." It's pretty much the only good thing about him.
    • The only honest compliment that Ned can give Robert about his reign was that he was a better king than his predecessor.
    • Griff says that Ser Rolly Duckfield is a "solid" man, but disagrees with him being raised to the Kingsguard. He worries that, at this rate, the illustrious order will be filled with men "each more blindingly adequate than the last."
  • In The Sibyl in Her Grave, Daphne knits Maurice a sweater as a Christmas gift. Julia, a notorious klutz, diplomatically says, "It is not for me to speak disparagingly of Daphne's skill at knitting, as it is undoubtedly greater than mine."
  • The Sprightly Companion, a musical instruction book published by Henry Playford in 1695, describes the oboe as 'not much inferior to the Trumpet.'
  • In Wolf Hall, after Thomas Cromwell returns from a trip he tells his wife Liz that she's sweeter to look at than Cardinal Wolsey was. She laughs and tells him "that's the smallest compliment a woman ever received", which he jokes is a shame because he was working on it the whole way home.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: After Sirius Black and Remus Lupin reveal that Ron's pet rat Scabbers is actually Peter Pettigrew, the man who betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort, Pettigrew tries to beg Ron for mercy on the grounds that "I was your rat… I was a good pet." Sirius retorts, "If you make a better rat than human, it's not much to boast about, Peter."

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 30 Rock, Liz explains that whenever Jenna performs in a horrible production she always finds some small point to legitimately compliment so that it can seem like she enjoyed it. When she tries it in "The Rural Juror", however, Jenna describes it as Liz being mocking by highlighting some small point. There are two sets of flashbacks in the episode, one from each of their perspectives; Liz's depicts her as attempting to be kind, while Jenna's emphasizes the condescension and insulting aspect.
  • In season one of Angel Angel and Wesley describe Cordelia's acting as having "good projection" and said that she had "taken the role and made it her own."
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Leonard and Penny pull this on themselves while trying to write a Christmas letter. As they try to list their accomplishments over the previous year, they end up with items like "still married" and "still employed."
  • Big Wolf on Campus episode "That Swamp Thing You Do!", possibly combined with Stealth Insult:
    Tommy: So, what did you think of my acting skills?
    Merton: I think you combined the articulation of Arnold Schwarzenegger with the emotional range of Jean-Claude Van Damme.
    Tommy: Thanks, man!
  • An episode of Black Books has Manny, suddenly missing his job at the bookshop, trying to find a nice thing to say about the place. He eventually concludes that there was no love, freedom, or largeness of heart, but "I was not contractually obligated to have sex with foreign businessmen, and that's not nothing!"
  • On The Blacklist when Reddington tried to convince the judge to allow Glen on his jury, his argument amounted to saying that none of Glen's obvious flaws meant he couldn't be a juror.
    Judge: I'm not sure if you're damning him with faint praise or praising him with faint damnation.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Willow's excited to hear that since Angel came to our fair shores about eighty years ago, there are no reports of him hunting ("Angel"). She reads this as proof that he is a good vampire. "I mean, on a scale of one to ten, 10 being someone who's killing and maiming every night, and 1 being someone who's... not."
    • In "Prophecy Girl ", Xander takes the plunge and asks out Buffy. She's at a loss for words. "Well, you're not laughing, so that's a good start."
    • In "School Hard", Joyce wonders what Buffy's teachers will have to say about her scholastic performance. "Well," Buffy declares, "I think they'll all agree that I always bring a pen to class, ready to absorb the knowledge."
    • Willow congratulates Buffy from moving on from Angel... then makes the mistake of asking the Scoobies if they approve of the new guy, Scott. "He didn't try to slit our throats or anything," quips Cordelia. "It's progress." ("Faith, Hope, and Trick")
    • Buffy concedes that she's not popular. But she's not exactly unpopular! ("Homecoming")
      Buffy: A lot of people came to my Welcome Home party.
      Willow: But they were eaten by zombies.
    • In "Earshot", Hogan feigns excitement at Percy's improved verbal skills. "I actually heard him complete a sentence," he tells Willow. "It had a clause and everything."
    • At a pep rally in the same episode, Oz muses that the cheerleaders' spelling has improved.
    • In "Graduation Day pt. 2", Snyder congratulates the Class of '99, saying that they were "more or less adequate."
  • An episode of Dexter has the Trinity Killer receive faint praise from his family on Thanksgiving. He catches on, which goes poorly for his family.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Flesh and Stone", River arguably gives one about the Doctor. The army captain asks her "Do you trust this man?" She replies, "I absolutely trust him." "He's not some kind of madman?" In the exact same tone as before: "... I absolutely trust him." He catches on, though, and warns her that he doesn't like it.
    • In "The Night of the Doctor" the Eighth Doctor tries to convince Cass that he's not one of those Time Lords, who have wrought destruction upon the universe during the Time War, by saying that he's "one of the nice ones." This doesn't work, and she chooses to die rather than trust him. He refuses to leave her side and dies too.
  • Fawlty Towers: Major Gowen appears to leap to the defence of the hotel when a dissatisfied customer is chewing out Basil Fawlty.
    Mr. Hamilton: What I'm suggesting is that this place is the crummiest, shoddiest, worst-run hotel in the whole of Western Europe!
    Major: NO! No, I won't have that! There's a place in Eastbourne...
  • Family Matters: When Carl is asked to testify during an in-school "court session" about Steve's destructive tendencies, the only positive thing he can say is, "... I still have my health!"
  • From an early episode of Frasier:
    Frasier: Niles, you're a good brother and a credit to the psychiatric profession.
    Niles: You're a good brother too.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
    • In one, Ashley is afraid that she won't make any friends at her new school. Phil says that she has a great personality. Her response? "Great! Now I'm ugly."
    • In another episode, the characters are arguing over who is Phillip Banks' favorite child and will inherit his fortune. In the end, Phillip tells each one that he loves them equally and the reason why. When he gets to Hilary, he can't think of anything better than "Nice earrings!"
    • Played for Drama in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse," where Will's deadbeat dad comes back into his life, then leaves just as quickly after getting Will's hopes up that he'd changed his ways. As he angrily processes his father's actions, Will says, "Why should I be mad? At least he said goodbye this time."
  • Friends:
    • The characters argue over what faint praise they could offer Joey's awful T.V. show: "The lighting was O.K."
    • Ross promises to play rugby. Rachel reassured him that he was the toughest paleontologist that she knew.
    • In "The One With The Butt," the friends struggle to give Joey's play faint praise before Chandler breaks the ice by bluntly declaring it "awful."
    • A review for Joey's newest play begins by saying that while his performance was "uneven" it wasn't the worst part of the production. Joey is actually pleased to hear this and asks if he can keep the newspaper containing the review.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Catelyn agrees for one of Lord Walder Frey's daughters to marry her son Robb. She relays that Lord Walder said that several of them would be suitable for marriage. When asked to describe them she starts "One was..." and stops, apparently unable to think of a compliment and settling for confirming she's "suitable."
    • Jaime Lannister ends up being forced to undergo an extremely painful surgical procedure in order to prevent an infection from spreading. For extra creepiness, the doctor presiding over this treatment is Qyburn, a mildly-psychotic Maester stripped of his rank and chain of study for immoral experimentation. Fortunately, the treatment works, and Jaime eventually compliments him on being "far better at this sort of work than Grand Maester Pycelle." He actually meant this as a genuine compliment, but Qyburn clearly doesn't think much of his former colleagues among the Maesters and even less of the admittedly corrupt Grand Maester, and only replies: "Faint praise, my Lord."
    • Shae mentions in "What Is Dead May Never Die" that every man she cooks for compliments what a good whore she is.
    • In "Mockingbird", Jaime praises Tyrion's epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech from the previous episode as something all of King's Landing will be talking about for days to come.
    • After Tywin's death, Loras has to give his condolences to Cersei and he painfully struggles to say something nice about her father. He finally calls the deceased lord 'a force to be reckoned with', then pauses for a moment, then rephrases it, then pauses again and finally repeats the original phrase. While the moment is awkward, the departed would find the words highly praising because that's precisely the image Tywin cultivated and relished.
    • Varys notes that the main thing Robert had to recommend was that he wasn't as bad as Aerys II and Joffrey, being neither mad nor cruel. He simply didn't want to be king.
    • When Jaime and Bronn are tasked by King Tommen to aid House Frey in retaking Riverrun, they arrive and end up witnessing a pittance of a siege, prompting Bronn to remark that the Frey besiegers need to be taught how to dig trenches. Jaime agrees and suggests Bronn should do it, much to the latter's annoyance, justifying as that Bronn has better instincts than anyone in the Lannister army. Bronn's response?
      Bronn: That's like saying I have a bigger cock than anyone in the Unsullied army. note 
      • Considering Tywin's irritation with his generals in season 2 in the War of the Five Kings in the campaign against Robb, Bronn may be right.
    • During the Long Night, Sansa remarks to Tyrion that out of all her husbands he was the best of them. While Tyrion is touched by the statement, he also notes that she is comparing him to Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton, who were rather monstrous individuals who would be easier to be better people than others.
  • GLOW (2017): After Ruth directs an opening sequence for the show, cameraman Russell hits on her by saying she has a "decent eye." Ruth makes a sarcastic comment about the faintness of the praise.
  • The main premise of an iCarly episode: Carly's webshow lands a sponsorship from a new type of wonder shoe. When the shoe fails to deliver, the team piles on "faint praise" to fulfill the contract without lying to their fans.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode, "The Gang Dines Out", Mac forces Dennis to say something nice to him. This is the best Dennis could come up with:
    Dennis: ...Your hair looks small.
  • In The IT Crowd, the main characters go to see Gay! A Gay Musical. When they see the poster, the review blurbs consist of "The audience applauded", "More than tolerable" and "Not as long as some musicals."
  • In Jessie, while seeing a horrible performance by officer Petey and being asked for an opinion. Zuri says that he is a "better actor than policeman."
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): Irish criminal Elliot "Grotto" Grote is killed by the Punisher despite Nelson & Murdock's best efforts to protect him. Only Matt Murdock, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson show up for his funeral. Father Lantom doesn't sugarcoat Grotto's life or attempt to avoid speaking ill of him. The most positive thing he can say about Grotto is that he went to and donated to the church with whatever loose change he had on hand and explains to Matt afterward that if they ignore his criminal past, there was no learning from it.
    • Jessica Jones (2015): Trish tried to become a pop singer at one point, with a song called "I Want Your Cray Cray". The one good thing Jessica has to say about this terrible song and its equally terrible music video is that it takes the It's Patsy theme song out of her head.
  • Mr. Show:
    • In one sketch, the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) attempts to bolster their public image with an ad campaign reminding the public that they're not serial killers. When presented at the Awards for Advertising American Ads, it wins the award for Best Improved Image. The audience is so disgusted with the pro-NAMBLA PSA that even a member of NAMBLA takes offense.
    • Some of the vox pops reviewing Coupon: The Movie include "We saw the shit out of it!" and "It was a movie!"
  • The opening of The Muppets Go to the Movies includes hilariously-vague faux reviews saying things like "One of the T.V. programs ever made" and "Even better than that."
  • In an episode of Murphy Brown, Frank, Murphy, and Jim attend the premiere of a movie made by Corky's husband, and come out having utterly hated it. Frank then tells Murphy and Jim that in these circumstances he usually complements the movie's cinematography. Phil then walks in:
    Phil: So how was the movie?
    Frank: The cinematography was excellent!
    Phil: ...that bad, huh?
  • My Family: In one episode, Susan is trying to put a positive spin on her relationships with all her children while being undercut by Description Cuts of the kids acting exactly the opposite of how she's described them. After describing Michael as her "rock" and Janey as her "angel", she comes to Nick, a Lazy Bum who's spent his entire life moving from Zany Scheme to Zany Scheme...and after a significantly longer pause, all she can manage is, "He's our eldest."
    Ben: He's a pillock.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • "The Land That Time Forgot":
      Jonah: This is my fourth-favorite submarine movie.
      Servo: Really?
      Jonah: Well, I only know of three others, so it's also my least favorite submarine movie.
    • In the episode "Monster A-Go-Go", Joel tries to get the Bots to come up with good things to say about the movie. They come up with "you couldn't hear some of the bad dialogue" and "at least nobody involved went on to do anything else".
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Following the murder of Recurring Character Roger Newsome, a Dirty Coward and Upper-Class Twit (followed by a prolonged Of Corpse He's Alive deception to draw out the killer), there are only two good things Murdoch can think to tell the reporters about him when they ask. First, that Roger's last words were spent trying to deliver a message which cracked the case once it was understood. Second, that when he dined with Roger (which happened during the period Roger was dead but they were pretending he wasn't) the man had excellent table manners.
  • In The Nanny episode "Deep Throat", C.C. wants Maxwell to be her date at a sorority reunion:
    C.C.: [enthusiastically] I just can't wait to show you off to all my old friends, [becoming embittered] with their handsome doctor husbands and their 2.5 perfect children they juggled while earning multiple PhDs...
    Maxwell: C.C., there's no need to be jealous. You have a successful career and, uh... a successful career.
    Niles: Yes, how do you balance them both?
  • In Newsradio, a whole episode is devoted to the news staff getting angry over a review describing their station as "adequate." When Jimmy James hears about it, he admits that the reviewer is on his payroll and he wrote the review himself, believing that "adequate" is a good compliment.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "The Model Teacher", a Snap magazine reporter "compliments" Miss Brooks' clothes: "That's a very nice suit... One can tell at a glance that it's worn you for years."
  • Parks and Recreation: Inverted when Ron moves Anne to tears by matter-of-factly telling her that interacting with her had not always been entirely unpleasant. This is due to Ron being extraordinarily spare in his praise.
  • In Power Rangers RPM, after being informed that she's been cold to the Rangers, K turns to each in term, gives them (incredibly awkward and unintentionally backhanded, but well-meaning) compliments, calls them by name (which she previously hadn't done much), and gives them an (equally awkward) hug. Then she turns to Ziggy, the one character most likely to accept this, and all she does is nod and say "You too, Series Operator Green," and walk off. Ziggy is outright insulted by this. Implied to be a subversion, at least in intent; she actually seems to have a crush on Ziggy and has no idea how to express it.
  • Red Dwarf: When an amnesiac Lister asks Kryten to describe something laudable about himself, Kryten pauses for a moment, and states that Lister sometimes turns his underpants inside out, allowing him to go without washing them for another few months.
  • Roseanne: Beverly used this trope often. When Roseanne disapproves of her daughter moving into a trailer park, she intentionally sends Beverly in with the directions to "be as nice as possible."
    Beverly: Well, it must be nice being able to vacuum the entire home without having to change outlets.
  • Schitt's Creek: During an audition, Alexis touts her "critically reviewed" reality show A Little Bit Alexis.
  • Six Feet Under: Russell, Claire's then soon-to-be boyfriend, complains to Claire that nobody ever considers him "hot." At best he gets "cute", and it doesn't help that most people think he's gay, and he's constantly hit on by guys.
  • Of Oliver's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Slings & Arrows, the janitor diplomatically says, "The production values are very high." And they are; it's just a shame that half the actors are crap and the blocking means you can't actually hear the delivery of the good ones. In the audience, the minister of culture is listening to the hockey game on a portable radio — and in the tech booth, the stage manager and Oliver himself are watching it on TV.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "Tapestry" has Picard changing the past and not getting involved in the fight that caused him to need to get his heart replaced with an artificial one. Without that brush with death driving him, he became a Lieutenant Junior Grade paper pusher instead of a legendary starship captain. When he goes to Troi and Riker asking about his performance, they end up falling into this.
      Riker: You're a good worker, reliable... punctual.
    • In the episode "The Chase", Picard's old archaeology professor describes one of his papers as "informative", to which Picard himself replies "Damning with faint praise."
    • Played with in the episode "Sarek." After the Vulcan Sarek has reviewed Picard's history, he deems Picard's Starfleet service record "satisfactory." Picard is pleased, recognizing this as high praise coming from a Vulcan.
    • Faint praise is considered a grave insult in Klingon culture as it implies the recipient is too weak to handle criticism. In "Sins of the Father", visiting Klingon officer Kurn berates most of the crew but is dismissively polite towards Worf, resulting in a confrontation. It turns out this was a Secret Test of Character to see if Worf, raised by humans, is still Klingon enough to avenge the insult.
  • Succession: When people make cracks about Shiv's unexceptional boyfriend Tom, she defensively protests, "He's a nice guy!" On their wedding night, her toast to him is limited to, "You're a great guy and I like hanging out with you."
  • In Strangers with Candy, Teacher Chuck Noblet to protagonist Jerri Blank's stepmother Sara: "Jerri certainly is one our of students."
  • Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson lampshaded this trope reviewing a minivan. "This is a Renault Espace, probably the best of the people carriers. Not that that's much to shout about. That's like saying ‘Oh good, I've got syphilis, the best of the sexually transmitted diseases!'"

  • Flight of the Conchords:
    • The band bills itself as New Zealand's fourth most popular digi-folk duo.
    • "The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)" is all about this. The speaker hits on a girl by telling her that she's the most beautiful girl in the "whole wide room" and that when she's walking down a street, she'd probably be among the top three hottest girls on the street (depending on the street).
  • One review of Pink Floyd's album Ummagumma (acknowledged even by the band itself as being part of its Dork Age) called it "an admirable record to fall asleep to."
  • The Soundgarden album "Ultramega Ok." (The band were dissatisfied with the production but happy with the songs themselves)
  • In their stage performances, veteran Irish folk group The Dubliners would often credit their late member Barney as being "probably the best banjo player in the whole of the Dubliners."
  • Keith Moon, The Who's Cloudcuckoolander drummer, once made the bold claim that he was "the best Keith Moon-type drummer in the world."
  • On at least one of his album covers, Tom Lehrer cheerfully included lines from a brutal series of newspaper reviews, ending with the Oakland Tribune's "Plays the piano acceptably."
  • In the "Weird Al" Yankovic album Polka Party!, the song "Good Enough For Now" is all about this. His momentary lover is described as "pretty good", "above average", "the woman that he's (not really) always dreamed of", and he doesn't plan to leave her... until "something better comes along".

  • Interstitial Actual Play:
    • It crops up when the party encounter Merlin in Twilight Town. He thinks the dropout from Yen Sid's class is Edith rather than Criss, and Criss defends her by claiming that she doesn't have nearly the potential Yen Sid looks for in a student and would never be taught by him.
    • Again near the end of the first season. While trying to brag about his companions, Criss gives impressive images of Edith and Roxanne and then implies the most interesting thing about Marche is that he can drive a car.
  • A Running Gag in the podcast Behind the Bastards is that whatever products and services the ad break is about to shill for probably haven't been involved with the subject of this week's episode, which tends to involve 'schenanigans' like genocide, terrorism, torture, shameless exploitation of slave labour, running violent cults, running police states, False Flag Operations, lying about one's resume...

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Mick Foley tells a story in one of his books about Owen Hart's feud with Dan Severn. Evidently, when Mick asked Owen how his match went with Severn, Owen replied with "He's a nice guy." When Mick repeated the question, Owen responded again with "He's a nice guy."

  • Cabin Pressure:
    • Martin responds to Arthur's Christmas gift with "Thank you, Arthur, it's just what I... least expected."
    • Douglas gives Martin a job reference stating that "other than myself, there is no one at MJN whose skills as a pilot I rate higher." They're MJN's only two pilots.
    • Arthur thinks pretty much everyone is, in his words, "brilliant", so when he's asked to describe his father and the best he can come up with is "he's all right", Martin's immediate reaction is "God, he must be awful!" Later in the same episode, Carolyn greets Arthur's father (her ex-husband) with "Hello, Gordon. How necessary to see you."

    Tabletop Games 

  • The book Theatrical Anecdotes speaks of a producer who, when invited to a friend's show that really sucked, would congratulate them with the phrase, "My dear! Good is not the word!"
  • In Hairspray, Tracy's mother thanks Velma Von Tussle for letting Tracy appear on her TV show (she didn't, actually; the decision had been made without her and she protested vehemently). Velma diplomatically replies, "Well, Tracy has certainly... redefined our standards."
  • Ruddigore:
    • Robin is talking to Rose about Richard, beginning by saying he'll "stand up for Dick through thick and thin!" However, every single thing Robin says about Richard, although masquerading as a compliment, is, in fact, nothing of the kind.
    • When Rose asks Robin whether Richard is like most sailors in that he is "worldly", he says, "And what then? Admit that Dick is not a steady character and that when he's excited he uses language that would make your hair curl. Grant that — he does. It's the truth, and I'm not going to deny it. But look at his good qualities. He's as nimble as a pony, and his hornpipe is the talk of the Fleet!"
    • When Rose asks if Richard drinks, Robin says, "Well, suppose he does, and I don't say he don't, for rum's his bane, and ever has been. He does drink — I won't deny it. But what of that? Look at his arms — tattooed to the shoulder!"
    • Finally, when Rose wonders whether Richard would cheat on her while he was away on a sailing voyage, Robin says, "Granted—granted—and I don't say that Dick isn't as bad as any of 'em. You are, you know you are, you dog! a devil of a fellow--a regular out-and-out Lothario! But what then? You can't have everything, and a better hand at turning-in a dead-eye don't walk a deck! And what an accomplishment that is in a family man!"
  • The Pirates of Penzance:
    • Frederic worries if Ruth is not as beautiful as other women are, and the pirates struggle to say good things about her:
      Pirate King: Oh, Ruth is very well, very well indeed.
      Samuel: Yes, there are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth.
    • The Major-General unknowingly does this to himself in his song. His military knowledge includes impressive things like being able to "tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin" and knowing more about tactics than "a novice in a nunnery". Several of his other boasts are unimpressive if you know what he's talking about — for instance, he knows "the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes." The Croaking Chorus in question is just the Greek onomatopoeia for "frog noise." So it's basically "ribbit."
  • In Trial by Jury the Judge's ex-wife is described by her father as being able to pass for forty-three, in the dusk, with the light behind her.
  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Doctor Frank-N-Further asks his servants on their opinion of Rocky, his latest creation. While Riff Raff and Magenta offer lavish praise, Columbia enthusiastically says "He's okay!" The doctor doesn't appreciate that.
  • An excerpt from Veronica's diary in Heathers:
    Kurt Kelly. Quarterback. He is the smartest guy on the football team, which is kind of like being the tallest dwarf.
  • Mr Puntila and His Man Matti: After Puntila, while drunk, has said about the attaché, fiancé of his daughter Eva, that he "isn't a man", Eva defends the attaché in conversation with Matti as "an intelligent and kind man whom you can't judge by his appearance, or by what he says or what he does."

    Video Games 
  • In Beautiful Katamari, if the King of All Cosmos isn't impressed with your rolling results, but still turns it into a star, he'll observe "At least it doesn't take up much space..." Of course, he doesn't shy away from straight insults, either...
  • In Assassin's Creed, the Rafiq in charge of the Assassin Bureau in Damascus will tell Altaïr that he deeply envies him. Well, except for the fact that his arrogance got Altaïr stripped of his rank and equipment and got him stabbed in the gut, and every other Assassin hates his guts now.... or rather, are able to openly hate his guts now.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, The Warden is offered a vote on how to dispense with a magical criminal responsible for poisoning a nobleman. The Warden can give a response like "He did agree to help us... though he didn't have much choice", to which the Arl calls the trope out by name.
  • In Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, the second gym leader, oddly enough, does this to himself when he says, "IF IT'S WORM ELF, I'M NOT DEFEATED BY EVERYONE."note 
    • Later in the same game, a trainer in the Fighting Gym declares that, "OUR FIGHTERS ARE NOT TERRIBLE!"
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's character bios list Karis, an overbearing and easily-annoyed Tsundere, as the "most levelheaded" of the starting three characters. This speaks volumes (or not) about Matthew, the hero.
  • The introduction to Shadowrun Returns explains that you are currently living in an apartment that has four walls, a roof and isn't on fire. Also there are no cockroaches because they have higher standards.
  • The Disciple, from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, will give you a laundry list of complaints he has with the Jedi if you ask him: they're arrogant, they're out of touch, and their greatest Knights keep on falling to the dark side. But he will concede that people are wrong to conflate them with the Sith, and they do have symbolic value. He supposes.
  • Tales of Xillia has a moment of Alvin and Milla discussing her getting some training in her swordsmanship in, though she is less than adequate at fighting at this point. Cue Alvin giving her faint praise.
    Alvin: If nothing else, you know how to swing the pointy end.
  • This little ditty from IGN's review of the horrendous budget game Extreme PaintBrawl 2: "There is one good thing I can say about Extreme PaintBrawl 2: it doesn't cause cancer, bursitis, or scurvy — at least according to the Surgeon General."
  • Played for laughs in World of Warcraft regarding the engineering profession which at high levels allows characters to "make fantastic devices and explosives that very often work as intended."
  • There is a rare inversion of the trope in Final Fantasy XIV. Gigi's, an NPC in the Goldsmith's Guild, initial criticism of the player's work ("Not fit to make a chamberpot" "an affront to the gods themselves") is so ridiculously over-the-top that "I've seen worse" is treated as high praise.
  • Shows up during one of the Multiple Endings of Disgaea 3 when Flonne is pressed to find something good to say about Laharl. Flonne, after some hesitation, manages to say that she could like how everything revolves around him, how he has the heart of a young boy, and how sticks to his beliefs even when it causes people to get hurt. Laharl is altogether less than pleased.
  • In Shadowrun: Dragonfall, if you accept a particular assassination job, choose to spare the target, then have a change of heart and kill him anyway when the client's goons show up to check on you, you'll receive your payment along with a note from the client that your performance was "satisfactory"... and that you shouldn't expect to receive any more contracts from them.
  • The demo for The Stanley Parable features a "compliments room", where pushing the button will earn you a shallow compliment from the narrator. He's only able to praise the player's ability to eat uranium, then place them in the top 5000 of people playing the demo at this exact moment, before running out of nice things to say.
  • In a guide (fanmade or official) for a character seen as a Tier-Induced Scrappy or Joke Character, a common refrain is "good in the right hands." Sometimes this means the character has some hidden trick or high skill floor, to make them Difficult, but Awesome or a Lethal Joke Character - but more often, it means "this character can only be played proficiently if the user is already really good at the game, at which point playing as this character is basically a Self-Imposed Challenge."
  • Persona series:
    • In Persona 4:
      • Kanji does his best to not insult Yukiko's cooking. He ends up with "It tastes really... boneless?", then notes "It's pretty impressive that you put so many ingredients into a dish and it came out tasting like nothing." Granted, it apparently turned out slightly better than Chie or Rise's cooking, the latter of which causes Yukiko to pass out after a single bite.
      • Yukiko possibly unintentionally does this when she remarks that Chie gets above average grades in the subjects she doesn't fail.
    • In Persona 5, near the end of Haru's Confidant, Takakura, the new president of Okumura Foods after her father's death asks her what she thinks about her fiancé, Sugimura. Haru, still a bit guarded around Takakura, politely describes Sugimura as "an intelligent man," but says she has no interest in being his wife. In reality, Haru had previously called Sugimura a "creep," and had decided to steal her father's heart so she wouldn't have to go through with the Arranged Marriage with Sugimura.
  • In Mutant Football League, if the Leaveland Burns manage to eke out a win, "Brickhead" Mulligan will congratulate them on how, "...for one glorious night, they weren't the worst."
  • At one point in Splatoon 2, Pearl asks Marina to tell the viewers about Inkblot Art Academy, but all Marina can come up with is "It's a place that exists." They later admit that they can't badmouth the Academy on-air because it's one of their sponsors.
  • Towards the end of Spec Ops: The Line, Big Bad Konrad claims he's not a madman by telling the Captain Walker "I assure you, I'm as sane as you are Captain." As the tone of voice, not to mention the previous several hours of the game, suggests, this is not intended as a reassurance. Not long after, you find that Konrad was Dead All Along, and Captain Walker was talking to a figment of his imagination so he could deny that "The only villain here is you, Walker." "Konrad" was indeed as sane as Captain Walker.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Shiny Days Sekai tries to defend her work ability by saying she didn't break a plate one day recently. She's so bad that when Setsuna takes over for her she manages to be a far better employee almost instantly despite her poor social skills and initial problems, eventually earning even the praise of difficult customer Manami Katsura.
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • When discussing grouping with Misha and Shizune, the former being the least academically gifted of all the main characters, Hisao says that Misha's handwriting is nice.
    • Akira says the best part about visiting her parents' house in Scotland was that it was by the beach. She hasn't forgiven them for leaving them behind in Japan years ago.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
    • In the second game, near the end of "Farewell, My Turnabout," the Judge does this to Matt Engarde, when it seems as though the person's guilt can no longer be proven.
      Judge: To be honest, I can't think of you as a truly innocent and good person. You have done enough evil to drive a woman to suicide. But... At least on the charge of murder, it would appear you are innocent.
    • In the third game, Godot, the primary prosecutorial rival, is a coffee addict who drinks 17 cups per case. However, when he discusses the rather awful restaurant Tres Bien, he has this to say about the expensive coffee.
      Godot: It's special, I'll give you that. It's worth a sip just for the experience.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Wesley Stickler, a college student with a knack for Feigning Intelligence, recalls a professor saying, "At least you have good eyesight, Stickler. I'll give you that," and is dumb enough to think it's genuine praise.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney, shortly after Ryunosuke and Susato meet Inspector Gregson. Herlock Sholmes' famed rival.
      Susato: Mr. Sholmes is equally complimentary about you, Inspector, isn't he? You've earnt his highest praise! 'Gregson is the pick of a bad lot of all the Scotland Yarders!' Those were his own words!
      'Ryuosuke: ...That's his highest praise?

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Strong Sad's character bio on an old character page (which can still be found in the museum) goes like this:
      Strong Sad has been disowned by his brothers Strong Bad and Mad. On the plus side, he has good handwriting!
    • In the Strong Bad Email "rock opera", an Easter egg shows the "rave reviews" for Strong Bad's rock opera include reviews like "SBEMAIL! is a triumph of some sort!" and "SBEMAIL! is better than a goat!"
  • In Puffin Forest Ben made a video about 4th Edition D&D, which is generally hated by fans. Ben wanted to make his video more upbeat but the more he wrote the more he remember just how aggravating it was to play. He consciously stops at one point to try and come up with a good thing to say about 4e and can only point to the books having good formatting.
  • RWBY:
    • While Ruby is grumbling to Yang on their first night at Beacon that "it's weird not knowing anyone here", Yang replies, "How about Jaune? He's...nice!" There is a short but distinct pause as she visibly searches for a positive descriptor she can use with sincerity.
    • The protagonists are talking about a Faunus criminal. Weiss makes disdainful remarks about him, to which Yang replies, "They're not all bad!"
    • When Nora is espousing her team's achievements, she mentions "Glynda barely yells at us any more!"
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation reviews video games, and despite the Accentuate the Negative theme of his reviews, tries to come up with a few compliments.
    • For FIFA 2013, though, he just had this to say:
      Yahtzee: It's certainly a game.
    • After spending a lot of time complaining about the story for Metroid: Other M, he praises the gameplay with faint damnation:
      Yahtzee: The gameplay's infinitely stronger in that it's merely bad.
    • From the same review, on the topic of the box blurb proudly announcing "Features Fully Voiced Movies!":
      Yahtzee: If the only selling point you can think of for the cinematics is that they have voices, like every film made since 1927, then it's like saying "you have nice hair" when forced to compliment the appearance of a squinting, bucktoothed hunchback.
    • His Judging By The Cover series discussed this when critiquing the poster for Fantastic Four (2015), along with Polish the Turd.
      Yahtzee:I love it when film marketers have to fall back on "from the studio that brought you". The usual starting point in the quality-by-Association Fallacy is "from the director that brought you", followed by "from the producer that brought you", which is desperate in itself, and this is the final resort: a small handful of the guys involved in the creation of an unrelated good thing work in the same building as us, and you never know, maybe we caught some talent off the toilet seats."
    • One of his categories in "Games of the Year" is "Top 5 Blandest" (reflecting So Okay, It's Average titles). In 2017, he handed the #3 spot to Destiny 2, noting that "sorry you couldn't be higher on the list, but hey, there is something appealingly ironic about coming third in a mediocrity contest."

  • xkcd inverts this neatly with the UNIX 2038 problem.
  • In one Boy Meets Boy strip:
    Tabitha: So I'm a hideous old evil bitch from hell?
    Flash: Um, I never said hideous.
    Tabitha: Oh, that helps!
  • The doctor's announcement after Dominic Deegan's physical exams.
  • From Homestuck, regarding Jack Noir
    GC: K4RK4T, H3S 4 J3RK!
    GC: >8|
    But unlike Gushers which serve many practical purposes like inducing vomiting and simulating the experience of eating plump insects, these things are totally useless!
  • A prison tattooist in Something*Positive has the slogan "Come see Edna! You won't get hepatitis!"
  • The Elusive Dr. Bowman of Freefall inverts this. He remarks that the Ecosystems Unlimited chief at his facility is "Dumber than von Neumann," and that he can't think more than five moves ahead in chess. Given that the former was one of the most brilliant men of the twentieth century, and the latter is well beyond most amateur Chess players, most humans would take those as backhanded compliments. Of course, given the doctor is a brilliant Neurologist and AI specialist, it's possible he still means them as insults.
  • In Cinema Snob Reviews Frozen (a fan comic where The Cinema Snob reviews Frozen), Snob says that Dogs is still a step up from a zombie confederate film (which he considers some of the worst films he ever reviewed).
  • In one Dumb_RWBY comic (later turned into a RWBY Chibi skit), Weiss is writing to her sister about Ruby. However, because Ruby is, in order, using a chicken on her scythe to play with her Precious Puppy and eating a cookie through her nose, all Weiss can say is that Ruby's "Interesting" and "A person." This would explain Winter's "How appropriately underwhelming" remark when she met Ruby in the series' Volume 3.
  • The Order of the Stick has Soon Kim's final appraisal of Miko's deeds as "You have done... adequately. By destroying my Gate, you have ensured it can no longer be used for evil purposes. You have fulfilled your oath to defend this one gate... technically." As Miko considered her deeds to be the carrying-out of a divine higher destiny to save the world, it's pretty obvious this wasn't what she expected... and as they were the result of paranoid delusions and directly led to the Big Bad escaping, it's similarly obvious that Soon is trying to be as nice as possible about it.
  • Girl Genius: When Martellus usurps the throne of the Storm King from his cousin Tarvek (mostly by killing anyone who tries to take it from him), numerous factions scheme to put Tarvek back in power. Nobody really has any idea what kind of king Tarvek would be or expects anything particularly impressive from him, but everyone agrees he can't possibly be worse than Martellus.
    Agatha: Am I the only one who actually likes Tarvek?
    Krosp: I like him. He thinks like a cat!
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Sigrun, trying to describe Mikkel's accuracy with a gun as nicely as possible, goes for "not too bad for a blind person."
  • In General Protection Fault, after Ki recalls how her former fiancé Sam had apologized for trying to rape her, she says, "I'll give him credit for seeming sincere," but mentions that she couldn't forgive him and that she called off the engagement.

    Web Original 
  • Online newspaper The Daily describes talking-point-turned-politician Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in their roundup of bad candidates of 2012:
    Joe the Unlicensed Pipe Fitter wrote a book, which was hailed by critics as "consisting of words" and "something that now exists".
  • Gamespot has pros and cons for every game.
    • For Hour of Victory the pro is "Thankfully, no one is forcing you to play this game."
    • For the Deal or No Deal adaptation, the "pro" which also shows up in the cons section, is that " There are voice samples from Howie Mandel"
  • Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus for the film Vampires Suck by the Seltzer and Friedberg duo, who are notorious for making unfunny spoof films, reads: "Witlessly broad and utterly devoid of laughs, Vampires Suck represents a slight step forward for the Friedberg-Seltzer team." (Keep in mind, the film's score is a 4%.)
  • Seanbaby parodies this when talking about Superfriends. He praises Lex Luthor for his ability to try to make every member of the Legion of Doom sound cool when he makes a roll call.
    Seanbaby: Sure, it's easy to compliment Bizarro and Sinestro, but what the fuck would you say about Toyman? '''"The amazing Bizarro! And next to him, the pretty-good-at-ping-pong Toyman! The... talking Grodd! Followed by the... the... followed by SCARECROW!"'
  • SF Debris: has come up with everything from recommending Star Trek: Insurrection as a Star Trek film for being the shortest, to praising the episode "Human Error" for being less awful than "Unimatrix Zero".
    Chuck: But then, so's a test pattern.''
  • Smogon is fond of this, when dealing with Joke Character Pokemon. Particular examples include noting Telepathy Wobbuffet to be "easily the best death fodder in the tier", the reason to use Castform being that it is "the PU Pokemon with the most diverse colors and coolest STAB move", or Luvdisc with Charm becoming "a very sturdy physical wall able to survive two Caterpie Tackles."
  • Muppet fan site ToughPigs reviewed the Rich Little episode of The Muppet Show, and they clearly didn't enjoy the guest star, saying that the episode's best joke is Kermit calling Rich Little a "master impressionist."
  • The Unshaved Mouse refers to child voice actors who did less-than-stellar work as "very nice young ladies/gentlemen doing their best."
    • From one of the "Bats vs. Bolts" reviews:
    But there’s no getting around it, I, Frankenstein is a staggeringly bad film, and leagues worse than Dracula Untold. Cunning and savvy reader that you are, you will notice that is not the same thing as saying that Dracula Untold is good.
  • In Worm, Gregor the Snail has this to say about Cauldron, a group of Well Intentioned Extremists who have explained that they plan to save the world.
    I would never question your morals. I know you have none.
  • The Wikipedia page for Gotti claims "Gotti was panned by critics, who lamented the writing, aesthetics, and performances, although its use of makeup received some praise."
  • In this Defector Media article disparaging the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, when asked to say something positive about the team, writer Drew Magary claims that wide receiver "CeeDee Lamb has an adorable name."
  • One article on the AV Club noted that the best thing about the Tiger Electronics R-Zone was that it cost thirty dollars. It went on to name it "a better fashion statement than a gaming console"... before noting that the R-Zone looked incredibly stupid to wear, calling out this trope by name.
  • In Pitchfork's FinalFantasy retrospective, he gives a positive and negative for all the playable characters in the eight entry. As he doesn't much like this game, this trope comes into effect for some of them. For instance, for Zell:
    Positive: Probably the most likable of the six main characters...
    Negative: ...which is really kind of sad.

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd:
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • After watching Wonder Woman brutally take down a suspect and take his blood without the legal right to in the 2011 pilot, Linkara says, "At least she used a sterile needle."
    • In his review of "The Culling" arc, he notes that Rose Wilson and Caitlin Fairchild pass the Bechdel Test during their Designated Girl Fight. "So I guess there's another positive we can give to this idiotic story."
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: When Jane asks Mr. Rochester's personal assistant Grace Poole about their boss, specifically what he is like and whether he is easy to work for or if he is generally liked, Grace starts talking about his company and family. She also says that he's... a man. Eventually, she manages to say he's great, but it doesn't sound too convincing. But one thing was really nice — Mr. Rochester is a dog-lover.
  • A number of video games featured in Games Done Quick's Awful Games Block have been described as fun games to play...if you're speedrunning. In other words, playing the game completely differently from how it was intended to be played.
  • Bishop Barron's Youtube review of Last Days In The Desert opens with him praising the movie for a massive accomplishment: managing to make the most captivating human in all of history, Jesus Christ, "colossally dull."
  • The Cinema Snob has a moment after one of the many cheap Gorn scenes of Violent Shit III: Infantry of Doom:
    Snob: "Well, at least it's not CG gore..." [winces visibly] "What a fucking sad state we're in when modern-day computer-infested horror films could learn something from THE VIOLENT SHIT MOVIES!"
  • Cinematic Excrement:
    • In his review of Kiara the Brave (a direct-to-video mockbuster of Brave), he states that the animation looks great... when compared to the animated sequence in UHF.
    • The Smeghead considers Poison Ivy to be the best villain in Batman & Robin...while also noting how her competition is an obnoxiously exaggerated Dumb Muscle character and a comically underdeveloped character with a penchant for horrible puns.
  • Civvie 11 notes that Redneck Rampage Rides Again is the best sequel to a game made on the Build Engine... the competition being Duke Nukem Forever and Blood II: The Chosen. Still, the praise is fairly genuine (he describes it as a flawed-but-playable game that does a lot to fix the original), making it more of a Stealth Insult to the latter two that they couldn't beat the sequel to Redneck Rampage.
  • In Counter Monkey episode "Shadowrun: The Code", Spoony begins to describe a break-in that goes horribly wrong thanks to Stupid Crooks shenanigans:
    Spoony: So they start off and— and thank God they went at night! At least they got one thing right.
  • Critical Role: in the second campaign, Veth describes the villainous Lucien thusly:
    Veth: He's not all bad - he has good oral hygiene.
  • The Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog song "So They Say" features numerous characters praising Captain Hammer and his relationship with Penny. When it's her turn to describe him, she says "I guess he's pretty okay."
  • In Part 7 of Dumb Lawyer Quotes IRL but in Ace Attorney, an attorney, played by Phoenix Wright, lists a defendant's many transgressions then sheepishly says, "On the positive side... he has a certificate for exemplary umpire duties in the softball league."
  • Game Grumps:
    • When they are struggling to find one, just one nice thing to say about Zelda's Adventure, this is eventually what they come up with after 8 whole episodes:
      Arin: You know, I got to give this game credit. It fucking... it is.
      Danny: It is a game.
      Arin: It exists.
      Danny: It is real, and you can't take that away from it. Alright, you know what? Next time on Game Grumps!
    • And to add to that, when Zelda's Adventure was so bad they decided to just give up and play extra Sonic Unleashed which Arin begins praising in comparison. While Dan feels he finds the game charming in spite of its flaws, the stuff Arin praises in comparison to Zelda's Adventure are the absolute rock-bottom most basic elements something needs to even be considered a video game (though he does admit he loves the way the beach stage they're on is beautiful):
      Arin: It's got gameplay, and goals, and feedback. There are clear motives and things are happening.
    • During their stream of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Hannah and Dan force Arin to say one nice thing about the game every time he complains about it. Most of his "nice" things are this, where he'll make a scathing critique about how he feels the controls are frustratingly broken, gimmicky, and unresponsive, and then praise some small or irrelevant aspect of the game like a nice texture, or liking how the cursor rotates.
  • The Honest Trailers episode for Tenet accuses Christopher Nolan of three recurring problems in his films- 1)Overbaked plots, 2)Underdeveloped characters and 3)All-white leads. It then shows the black Protagonist, and says the this time, Nolan was able to solve one of those problems.
  • I Hate Everything in his review of Cool Cat Saves the Kids said it was "the greatest thing he's ever seen."
    IHE: Notice how I called it a 'thing', though, because I'm not sure it can be classified as a movie.
  • An episode of Lasagna Cat makes this into a Running Gag with the two live-action Garfield movies, by using selected quotes from various reviews of said movies, both by professional critics and random internet users, starting with backhanded compliments, then moving on to more bland statements, before finally going into ones that border on downright bizarre.
    "No one can accuse Garfield: The Movie of infidelity to its source: it faithfully conveys the [consistency] of Jim Davis's cartoon."
    Ben Kenigsberg, Voice
    "Garfield is a cat who says funny things."
    A.O. Scott, New York Times
    "I loved the garfield cartoons and now I see it if it was in real life !!! I cant wait to see!!!"
    "Runtime: 78 minutes"
  • Jimquisition:
    • Jim's second look at Digital Homicide's Deadly Profits has them pointing out the one or two extremely minor details that were changed for the better (such a boss fight having its exploitation fixed) and that the game itself was worth buying due to the $1 sale the developers were promoting.
    • "It's... fine." Jim's go-to phrase for "Jimpressions" when reviewing games that they consider average fare.
  • When JonTron is playing various Barbie games and being thoroughly unimpressed by how shallow and vapid the gameplay is, the highest praise he's able to give the Super Nintendo Barbie game is "at least it's not about getting ready for a date with Ken"
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:
    • Lizzie isn't too pleased to hear that Darcy considers her "decent enough"... His lack of social skills and tact is really astounding, considering how witty and pretty Lizzie actually is.
    • Lizzie challenges her incredibly kind sister Jane to say something nice about Darcy. The only thing she can give? "He's so... ah. Eeh. He's um- no, no no... He's tall."
      Lizzie: Okay! For the record, when the nicest thing Jane Bennet has to say about you is "tall", you have personality problems.
    • It happens again when Caroline is trying to describe Darcy, also asked by Lizzie. And Caroline actually likes Darcy. Her struggle may not have been in finding something to praise about him, but in figuring out how to praise him without making it obvious she likes him. Either way, she never ends up spitting anything out, so the effect is the same.
  • When Maple Leaf LetsPlays Metroid: Other M, he tells Olive Branch that "the game itself is fine. The game itself is fine" and "very acceptable." (The story, and the ways that the story interacts with the game, however...)
  • An inverted version of this trope is discussed in The Legend of Hercules (2014) episode of Midnight Screenings, in which Brad and Brian overhear two men talking about the film after seeing it. The first man unfavorably compares the film to the show Spartacus: Blood and Sand, stating how "much better" the show is, before adding at the end that the movie was still "pretty fucking good, though."
    Brad: He liked it! He just had to shit on it first.
  • In Moviebob's review of Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009), he says that it's the best Halloween film since John Carpenter's original, though he admits that given the standards of all the Halloween movies released in between, that's not saying much. Subverted in that he enjoyed the film anyway in spite of its flaws.
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
    • The Nostalgia Chick labels Dragonheart the best of the "dragon" movies, and acknowledges that it isn't saying much.
    • While reviewing Men in Black II, she complains that It's the Same, Now It Sucks!, and says that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen of all sequels tried something different.
      The Chick: ...I'm making a positive comparison to Transformers 2. That's like making a positive comparison to backne.
    • When rating the Disney sequels, she admits that she can't quite make a "best" list since, as "best implies 'good' or 'warrants existing.'" Instead, she makes a list of the "Least Awful." She does the same thing later when rating female superhero movies.note 
    • Likewise in her review of The Lorax she calls Horton Hears a Who! the "least awful" Dr. Seuss movie, and notes that, like the best of Chris Meledandri's movies, it's "okay."
    • From her Sister Act review: "Well, 'funny' is a strong word, as neither movie [is] particularly funny. They're easy to watch. They will hold your gaze for ninety minutes." At the end, she sums things up by saying that "they're not funny, but they're fun!"
  • From the TGWTG files: The Nostalgia Critic
    • From his review of Steel when describing the casting choice of Shaquille O'Neal:
      Critic: But give him some credit, though.... He's tall.
    • He does some lampshading of this during his review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
      Critic: Greatest adequately satisfying movie of all time! And I liked it, too.
    • In one that he even feels a bit ashamed: as much as he hates How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Jim Carrey's performance is better than Mike Myers in The Cat in the Hat.
    • In his review of Yogi Bear, he gives the film credit where it's due: "it's short."
    • Played for Laughs at the end of his review of Casper when the titular ghost has given up on his film being good or terrifying, and tries to settle for so bad that it's scary. The Critic rebukes this admitting that, while it's not good, it's certainly not god-awful and actually has some good qualities and genuine effort put into it. Casper doesn't take it well.
      Casper: Well. Wasn't so bad it was scary?
      Critic: Actually it wasn't even that. I mean, granted it is a bad movie, but it's nowhere near terrible. The sets are kind of creative, the CGI is fun. And even though it doesn't really work, you can tell that creators were at least trying to create something good. There was actual effort put onto it. It's kind of like the Ninja Turtles movie. It's not really good but could have been hell of a lot worse. Especially considering the subject matter. So, I have to give them credit for at least trying.
      Casper: That's it! I'm tired of leaving no lasting impact on the creative media. But I will leave a lasting impact on your balls!
  • Outside Xbox has an episode in which host Luke is served a cocktail recreated from a recipe in Hitman (2016). His verdict on it was: "If you added poison to it, it wouldn't ruin the taste."
  • C.T. Phipps and The United Federation of Charles more or less run on this. You can tell when he really hates a game by the almost-passive aggressive way he brings up the minor-minor details which he liked.
  • Played for Laughs on Phelous's review of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories when he comments on how the game changes the personalities of its characters based on how you play, and follows with a number of alternate Phelouses who each have different opinions. One, the pretentious art critic version of him, has only this to say:
    In my expert opinion, Silent Hill Shattered Memories is a game.
    That came out on the Wii.
    In December of 2009.
  • In Ross's Game Dungeon, Ross will often say of games that are merely tedious, mediocre, forgettable, and/or not awful to play that he'd play them if he was in prison with nothing better to do.
  • Frequently used in Rank10YGO's archetype reviews, often combining it with Overly Narrow Superlative. An early one was "Well, it sure can give Shapesnatch Turbo a run for its money!" or handing The Empress the honorable title of "better than Magician", but one of the most common is some variant of "If you were playing this card in a rundown locals about five years ago against a six-year-old Genex player, then it should help you out."
  • Scott The Woz uses this often:
    • His Shovelware Variety Hour videos involve this frequently, including acclaiming Carnival Games: Mini-Golf as "beyond playable", and referring to Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball as "the best pirate game on our list today" (it's one of two).
    • In New Super Mario Bros. | What's New Is Old, the last thing Scott had to say in the review was that "the New Super Mario Bros. series aren't bad games," followed by a half minute of silence.
    • His quick introduction of Sega for E3 2000:
      "Sega. You know, the company with the name?"
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings makes frequent use of this in a couple of their Running Gags to dunk on movies or characters that are unimpressive:
    Well, that was definitely a movie!
    I remember him! He was in the first movie!
  • Tobuscus' "2nd Hottest Girl" is a parody love song about Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The second most attractive girl on a web reality show. The joke, of course, is that the singer doesn't realize that he's insulting her.
  • Shad in his review of The Rise of Skywalker. One of his few positive comments is that the film "made [him] feel positive emotions… twice."
  • Todd in the Shadows's review of "Turn Up the Music" is actually 90% just a rant about how much Todd hates Chris Brown as a person. Partway through he remembers that he's supposed to be reviewing the song, and says that yeah, it's okay, before moving on to more hate.
    Todd: As a singer, Chris Brown is a really good dancer.
  • Ultra Fast Pony. In the episode "The Pet Games", the caption writer comes up with a variety of subtitles for Rainbow Dash. These alternate between overt insults like "Professional Idiot", and more subtle insults like "Knows Her Own Name" and "Smartest Mare in Her Family" (in UFP, Dash is an only child and an orphan).
  • Vampire Reviews has a Top 10 Positive Things About Twilight video. Most of the examples fall under this trope, including things like "So Bad, It's Good" and "furries got a reprieve as the internet found someone else to make fun of."
  • The "What Your Favorite Ship Says About You" videos by Eldena Doubleca5t tend to describe particularly unpopular straight ships with the words "You are heterosexual": the intended meaning being that the pairing in question has nothing else to appeal to people aside from being a straight ship in a queer-dominated fandom.
  • CBS News online made a whole video doing this to Franklin Pierce. When the host asked a historian about the good things Pierce did in office, the historian broke down in laughter. Then it's mentioned that perforation was added to postage stamps during his administration and that farmers had access to guano. Another historian claims, when asked about whether Pierce was one of the worst presidents, that while Pierce will never be considered one of the best Presidents, he wasn't a terrible person (not saying anything about his actual competence). A similar one talking about James Buchanan has him talking about how the people who now mind his estate have a more positive view of him than most... as in, one of them labels him as only the second worst President of all time.
  • Crossing over with Biting-the-Hand Humor, Move or Die developer Mental Checkpoint released a video criticising the predatory tactics free-to-play mobile games use to hook players in and fleece them out of their money... sponsored by the free-to-play mobile game Raid: Shadow Legends. The video features an Enforced Plug for the game which conspicuously avoids saying anything about the developers' business practices or monetisation strategies; considering the subject of the video, you'd expect he'd offer some praise for these things if they were in any way ethical, so the fact he doesn't tells you everything you need to know.

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!: Carol Danvers tries to give a Rousing Speech to a prison full of criminals. She starts with "most of you aren't stupid".
    The Wasp: That'll win them over.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the pilot Christmas Episode, "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire", Marge is penning a letter to be included in the family's Christmas cards. Talking about the kids, she writes, "Maggie is walking by herself, Lisa got straight As, and Bart... we love Bart."
    • A similar thing happens in "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish." When Homer goes to see his children sleeping for (what he thinks is) the last time, he tells Maggie to "stay as sweet as you are", tells Lisa "I know you'll make me proud" and after hesitating a moment he tells Bart "I like your sheets."
    • With Bart again, in "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield", after realizing how much she's changed by trying to impress the women at a posh club, she decides she doesn't like how she's turning out and that she likes Homer's in-your-face humanity, she likes the way Lisa always speaks her mind and she likes Bart's... Beat "...I like Bart!"
    • In "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show", after showing his friends and family the "Poochie" which he's voice acting for, Homer's guests all leave muttering incoherently and Carl says "You should be very proud, Homer... you have a wonderful home."
    • Also, in "Realty Bites", when Marge becomes a real estate agent, Lionel Hutz sits her down to teach her the jargon.
      Hutz: There's (ominous) the truth (shakes head in disapproval), and there's (smiling) "The Truth!" Lemme show you. (opens a brochure)
      Marge: It's awfully small.
      Hutz: I'd say it's awfully ... cozy.
      Marge: That's dilapidated.
      Hutz: Rustic.
      Marge: That house is on fire!
      Hutz: Motivated seller!
    • In "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", Grandpa Simpson apologizes to Homer for horribly insulting him. The best compliment he can come up with? "I was always proud... that you weren't a short man."
    • Done to the point of Stealth Insult in "Thursdays With Abie" when Homer describes why he loves aquatic parks:
      Homer: I love coming to aquatic parks! Sure they have less rides than amusement parks, less fish than aquariums, but the parking is ample!
    • In "I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can", Homer sees a commercial for Krusty Burger's new Ribwich, which is made of "letter-graded meat" that Krusty caps off saying "I don't mind the taste!" (Which may actually be high praise coming from someone who hates Krusty Burgers).
  • Arthur: In "Nicked by a Name", after Brain gives the other soccer teammates cool nicknames, when Arthur presses him for a nickname, Brain comes up with Average Arthur.
  • In the OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "T.K.O.", after K.O. has a sub-par day compared to Enid and Rad:
    K.O.: Why can't I be strong like Rad and Enid? And how could I call myself a hero when I can't even shoot a power fist when I need it?
    Enid: Hey, power isn't everything, brush-head. You've got your own heroic qualities, like ... being cute! At least you're cute.
    • Shortly afterward, when Mr. Gar commends the heroes:
      Mr. Gar: Good work, employees! I'll now praise your acts of heroism one by one: Enid, very impressive foot-eye coordination, as always; Rad, well done saving that small child with your finger beam. Great improvements from you both!
      Rad: Yes!
      Mr. Gar: K.O.! [eagerly awaiting what Mr. Gar has to say about him] Ehh, uh... good hustle out there, now get this cleaned up.
      K.O. [dejected as Mr. Gar hands him the broom]: Oh.
  • Family Guy:
    • A Cutaway Gag "Stewie Kills Lois" had Ringo Starr showing the rest of The Beatles a song he had just written. Their response? "Very good! We'll put this right on the fridge, right here where everyone can see it."
    • When Brian made Stewie say something nice about Diablo Cody, he said, "I . . . envy the tattoo artist who had that huge canvas of arm fat to work with."
    • In "Coma Guy", Peter makes his family do embarrassing things to earn his forgiveness, which includes telling Timothy Olyphant how much they like him in Santa Clarita Diet (and only that show). To get them started, Peter says "I like your hair".
      Lois: Well, now I've got nothing!
  • The Cleveland Show episode "Gone With The Wind", which dealt with the sudden death of Cleveland's much-reviled ex-wife Loretta, took this trope Up to Eleven. The pastor officiating at Loretta's funeral opens the eulogy by saying that he never knew her personally, but if he'd been told anything about her beforehand, it apparently wasn't pretty, because the best he can do is list the accomplishments of other women who happened to share her name.
  • On one episode of Total Drama, Beth has to come up with a haiku highlighting one of Heather's positive attributes. The first line is "Heather has ten toes," and the rest summarizes how that makes swimming easier.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man subverts this when Aunt May tries to set Peter up with Mary Jane Watson, saying she has "a wonderful personality." Peter shudders, quite certain it means she's ugly, and the phrase "wonderful personality" becomes a Running Gag. Then Peter actually meets her. The Green Goblin says the same of the Master Planner when discussing New York's crime bosses one season later.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After seeing an absolutely horrendous meta episode play about them in "The Ember Island Players": "The effects were decent." Ironically, the episode aired not too far apart from the film The Last Airbender, causing people to use the same faint praise to describe it.
    • In "The Fire Bending Masters," Aang tells Zuko that "I don't care what the others say, you're pretty smart." Zuko looks happy about the praise for a moment... then realizes what it implies.
    • One of the final scenes in the series finale has Sokka drawing a picture of the entire team, and failing miserably. Everyone except Sokka shares a laugh after Toph says she thinks said picture is "perfect"... which isn't saying much, considering that she's blind.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • This happens in "Lesson Zero." Twilight Sparkle, (literally) madly desperate to find a friendship problem for her weekly report to Princess Celestia, tries to make a problem by getting the Cutie Mark Crusaders to fight over her favorite childhood toy, Smarty Pants. The Crusaders aren't interested in the ratty old doll, however, but are trying to be polite about it. When pressed to compliment it, the only thing Sweetie Belle can come up with is "Um, I really like her... mane?"
      • This comment is later played for laughs later in the episode, when Sweetie Belle says it with complete sincerity and excitement, albeit under a hypnotic spell that makes her (And others) obsessed with the doll.
      • As they're wont to do, the fandom has turned this into a meme, and it's now the stock response when you're commenting on someone's poorly designed pony OC.
    • Happens again in Read it and Weep, where the only thing Rarity can think of to comfort the just-hospitalized Rainbow Dash is that the hospital gowns match the curtains.
    • "Suited for Success" has this happen a number of times. First, when Rarity reveals the dresses she made for the other five, they can't think of anything better to say than "it's something." Later, when Rarity has Fluttershy in her dress and asks what she thinks she says "it's...nice" and similar until Rarity browbeats Fluttershy into telling the truth. Finally, when their revised dresses are shown to them, Rarity's best compliment on the new designs is "I'm happy that you're happy."
  • Daria:
    Jake: (on Daria's school photo) Wow, that's really sharp focus!
    • Also in the episode "Too Cute": everybody is gushing about a minor character's new nose job, which Quinn politely says is "cute." Everybody acts as though this minor praise is a tremendous insult.
    • Daria responds to a less-than-inspiring reading from Shakespeare with "Laurence Olivier, in his present state, could not have done better."
    • In an aversion, DeMartino's comment that Daria is "making me want to kill myself a little less than the processed sausages who call themselves your classmates!" was actually a show of affection by his standards.
  • In the Robot Chicken sketch Ebert and Roper at the Movies (where Roper is replaced by M. Night Shyamalan after Roper comes down with a case of who-gives-a-[bleep]), the only movie Roger Ebert isn't openly scathing in reviewing falls under this trope:
    Roger Ebert: Rudy was about a man who overcomes obstacles to fulfill his dream of playing football. Rudy II is about 90 minutes long.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: In the episode "Horror of the Haunted Hairpiece", the pizzeria owner offers Shaggy and Scooby free samples of his breadsticks (literally, they're sticks), and Scooby says that they were "crunchy."
  • In the Goof Troop episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy," Goofy decides to give Pete a compliment. The compliment in question is "Pete's a swell kinda guy, once you get past his personality!" What makes this even funnier is that Goofy himself believes this is a meaningful compliment.
  • King of the Hill: Hank Hill has so little in common with his son Bobby he has difficulty even faintly praising him. When Bobby is suffering from feelings of extreme stress, Peggy tells Hank to compliment him, then when Hank is speechless, she has to provide him with one; "He has nice hair." Which Hank only proceeds to turn into even fainter praise.
    Hank: Your mother likes your hair.
  • Futurama:
    • Whenever the accomplishments of Zapp Brannigan are listed, they're usually something that sounds both pathetically easy and morally repugnant. To whit: a carpet bombing of Eden 7, a "bloody triumph" against the pacifists of the Gandhi Nebula, and single-handedly defeating the Retiree People of the Assisted Living Nebula. This is to instantly show that Zapp's tactical skills are only matched by his morality. One particularly cringe-worthy "accomplishment" is shutting down a rampaging group of Kill-Bots, which sound impressive, until he goes on to tell you he did it by throwing wave after wave of his men at them, overflowing the robots' kill-counters and causing them to explode.
    • In the Christmas episode, Leela sings of the toy-making Neptunians, "You did the best you could I guess, and some of these gorillas are okay...." The Neptunians, not used to even this much, cheer, "Hooray! We're adequate!"
    • During the presidential election episode, Nixon's head is asked if he would steal candy from a baby. A visibly flustered and stammering Nixon equivocates, then states he would certainly never hurt a child. note 
  • Garfield once pointed out that when your boss tries to set you up with his daughter, the more praise for things like her personality, the fatter she is.
  • In Gravity Falls episode "A Tale of Two Stans", the principal of Stan's high school compares Stan and his twin brother to his parents thusly; "You have two boys. One is very gifted, and the other is sitting outside this room and his name is Stanley."
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "The Fatlands", Bloaty and Squirmy are in the middle of a Cowboy Episode when they run into some bandits, who decide to show off the half-assed "dancing" act they've been working on. Not wanting to provoke the bandits any further, Bloaty and Squirmy describe the act as "interesting", but the bandits immediately see through their "back-handed compliment" and decide to go ahead and drag them into the desert and shoot them dead.
  • Bojack Horseman: In the episode "Free Churro", BoJack has to give a eulogy about his dead mother Beatrice. However, he struggles to find even a single nice thing to say about her, resorting to Trivially Obvious statements of fact or just making stories up when he isn't outright insulting her.
  • Central Park: In Season 1 "Garbage Ballet", when Birdie tries praising the pottery on Esposito's desk:
    Birdie: Sir, not only are you a gentleman, you are an exceptional potter.
    Esposito: Oh, I didn't make that. I made this.
    (Esposito takes out a less-impressive pot)
    Birdie: Well, you are a gentleman.
  • In Inside Job (2021) Reagan reunites with her team, telling them things she likes about all of them. Unfortunately for Myc the only thing she can think of is that he makes everyone else look better by comparison.

    Real Life 
  • Abraham Lincoln reportedly asked Congressman Thaddeus Stevens about the honesty of Stevens' fellow Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron, who was being considered for the position of Secretary of War. Stevens replied that "I do not believe he would steal a red hot stove."note  (Lincoln ended up appointing Cameron anyway, as he was too important - as a Senator for the powerful state of Pennsylvania - but punted him to the post of Minister to Russia as soon as it became clear he was no good.)
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birgminham Jail" commends the many white supporters who "languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers"... then, after expressing his disappointment with the white church establishment, he damns select members with faint praise for at least allowing black congregations to worship in their churches on special occasions.
  • Rick Perry, long-time and quite an unpopular governor of Texas (later U.S. Secretary of Energy 2017-2019), became known as "Governor Good-Hair" for this very reason. Due to the myriad of reasons he was disliked, he had no one great negative epithet, but everyone agreed that his hair was his finest point.
  • There's a proverb in German that goes "Nice is the little sister of shitty."
  • A lawsuit against Apple's iPad by Samsung was decided in Samsung's favor by the judge due to Samsung's Galaxy Tab product being "not as cool."
  • In a review of a train set in a modelers' magazine, the author spent two paragraphs of a two-page feature describing the cardboard box that the set came in, praising its corrugated walls and high crush strength. The actual model got no such commendation.
  • Comedian Lee Camp has pointed out Oklahoma invokes this trope on themselves with the saying/motto "Oklahoma is OK."
    "That's all you've got? It's a whole state. Something there has to be better than 'okay'."
    • This article talks about the Oklahoma House Republicans on the Common Education Committee that voted to ban advanced placement US history courses, because they think it shows “what is bad about America”. The author warns them: If they insist to make an Orwellian Retcon on Oklahoma's story, they will Un-person the entire state because they have very few things to be proud about":
    In its “good” history, Oklahoma can boast being the basis of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical and the home of Oral Roberts University' '. But if Oklahomans were to purge all their local stories which reflect “what is bad about America”, their history pages would be wiped as white as a Tulsa klansman’s hood.
    • Comedian Anthony Clark also mocked Oklahoma's motto, acting out the hypothetical meeting during which it was voted on, where "Billy Bob" read out a list of candidates such as "Oklahoma: Some people say we don't suck!" and "Oklahoma: Trees are made of wood!"
  • A fairly popular anecdote from the final days of Soviet Russia talks about a group of Japanese businessmen being given the grand tour. As they are shown each sight, their only comment is "you have wonderful children." Factories? "You have very beautiful children". Grand new buildings? "Your children are very well behaved." Brand new cars? "J-Just wonderful children in general." When finally cornered and pressed to comment on something besides the children, they go "You really have absolutely wonderful children here. But everything you build using your hands is TERRIBLE." The Russian guides really should have been satisfied with their faint praise.
  • In the preface to his short story collection East And West, W. Somerset Maugham lampshaded this trope by commenting that a disconcertingly large number of critics described his stories as "competent."
    "Now on the face of it I might have thought this laudatory, for to do a thing competently is certainly more deserving of praise than to do it incompetently, but the adjective has been used in a disparaging sense...There is evidently something that a number of people do not like in my stories and it is this they try to express when they damn them with the faint praise of competence."
  • When Hardanger Fiddle players tried to compliment each other, faint praise might occur when the master fiddlers had to say something nice to the less gifted. "The Miller Boy", reckoned to be the greatest fiddler of the nineteenth century, made this one a classic:
    You are pretty good. In fact, you are much better than a person who never touched a fiddle.
  • The Jerkass practice of "negging." The idea is to shake the confidence of the negee (usually a woman one wants to pursue sex and/or a relationship with) enough to get her to seek his validation and approval. This can also be done with advertising: play on the potential consumer's insecurities (about their looks or status or whatever else)... and imply that your product will make everything better.
  • When he first hit the campaign trail in 2015, Donald Trump's xenophobic statements about Mexican immigrants, in which he criticized them for several crimes committed by the more vicious among their ranks, included the assessment "And some, I assume, are good people."
  • Probably unintentional, but John Gummer said this about Margaret Thatcher after her death:
    "She had beautiful hands and lovely ankles, and she knew precisely how to use both."
  • In a 2014 interview, Aretha Franklin was asked her opinions about several contemporary female pop singers:
    Adele: "Young singer, good singer."
    Alicia Keys: "Young performer, good writer-producer."
    Taylor Swift: "Okay... great gowns, beautiful gowns."
  • In sports, coaches and management praise the "character" and contribution to "dressing room culture" of athletes when they have nothing positive to say about the athletes' contributions to the actual game.
  • A tearjerker example: in 1939, the great New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig had been experiencing periodic weakness and loss of muscle coordination but tried to ignore it. One day during a game, he fielded a routine grounder and flipped the ball to the pitcher covering first base, ending the inning. As Gehrig made it back to the dugout, his teammates showered him with praise, patting him on the back and congratulating him. Realizing how badly he must have been performing if such a routine play earned so much praise, he quit the game. Soon after, he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease now commonly referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." It would kill him two years later.
  • A common tactic used by bosses or supervisors when writing a performance review or a reference for a bad employee if they're not allowed to say anything overtly negative is to praise the employee for being "punctual" or "always on time". It's positive enough, but if the main thing they're being praised for is managing to get their butt out of bed and haul themselves to work on time (in other words, the easiest and most minimal basic obligation of any employee), then you're also making it clear they were mediocre at absolute best.
  • This happens when you try to Polish the Turd.
    • Real estate examples: it's not small, it's cozy. It's not old, it's well-maintained. It's not the ugly house in a decent area; it's in a great neighborhood. It's fantastic!, not lacking in specific positive qualities.
    • You might do this to yourself on your resume; any experienced hiring personnel are looking for objective measures of your skills and achievements. If you are calling yourself a hard-working people person, well, everyone is a "hard-working people person."
    • Letters of recommendation can follow similar tactics to the performance review mentioned above.
  • Most comments about the quality of the pizza from the Little Caesars chain will revolve around how cheap it is, or how fast it is. To quote one user on Twitter:
    Little Caesars: It's hot and it's ready!
    Customer: Is it good?
    Little Caesars: It's HOT! And it's READY!
  • Tourists in Japan who can hold basic conversations in Japanese may be complimented with "nihongo jouzu!" (translated: "Your Japanese is good!") The stereotype is that this is a backhanded compliment given only to people with a flawed grasp of the language; the ones who are fully fluent won't be complimented in the same way, and it has an unintended air of condescension to the self-aware. It's sometimes said among people learning Japanese as a second language that you know your Japanese is actually decent when the Japanese stop complimenting it.
  • "It subverted our expectations" has colloquially become a Stealth Insult online, thanks to the rather contentious The Last Jedi and how it, for better or for worse, went out of its way to drop plot points established in the previous film or have character twists for the sake of twists. Basically if you're thoroughly unimpressed by a twist or the direction a work has taken, well at least it subverted your expectations right?
  • This is the idea behind "The Mendoza Line" in baseball. It was named after shortstop Mario Mendoza and his lifetime batting average of .215, where anything below .200 is considered bad. In other words, he was the most famously perfectly mediocre batter in baseball history. Therefore, saying someone is "above the Mendoza Line" is not to say they're a bad hitter, but you're not saying much to their credit either.
  • This sarcastic review of the 2019 film version of Cats on Twitter:
    CATS is undeniably a film. Brimming with a score, cinematography, and performances, it’s a motion picture made by a team of filmmakers that can irrefutably be described as existent. Truly one of the films 2019 has to offer.
  • The comments section for "Tone Deaf" by Eminem is brimming with this. A selection.

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Damn With Faint Praise, Damning With Faint Praise


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Santa shows annoyance at the new elf song, while Mrs. Clause praises it. That doesn't stop the elf foreman from claiming the tenor section was weak, however.

How well does it match the trope?

4.36 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / DamnedByFaintPraise

Media sources: