Sunday, August 26, 2007

No Offense, But Everyone Reading This is an Idiot

I have always wondered why people believe in the power of the magic phrase "No Offense". People who write about a controversial issue often start the writing with the magic phrase. Fanatics launch their bigotry with the magic phrase. It's thought that by saying "no offense", people who take offense at whatever that follows are themselves responsible for feeling offended.

I see much wrong with the phrase "no offense".

Saying "no offense" does not exempt you from shouldering the consequences spawned by your words. Saying "no offense" does not turn a blatant fanaticism into a careless ignorance. Saying "no offense" before a spiteful tirade, doesn't make the tirade more tender and lovely. Saying "no offense" doesn't vindicate yourself when everything you say IS offensive. If it's offensive, it is; if it isn't, it isn't.

In my humble opinion, we should just scrap "no offense", or at least delegate its role to an interjection. It doesn't carry any weight, and people who use this phrase and reckon they are relieved of practising discretion in their words, are simply lazy.

You know what, basically, "no offense" means as much as "you know", "seriously" and "basically", seriously.


Update 27/07/07:
Anyway I might have gone too far by suggesting to drop the phrase altogether. Actually I am mostly irked by people who defend their offensive statements by claiming that "I have already said no offense, why are you angry wor..."

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I guess it depends on what you mean when you say "no offense".
  1. "I hope that you do not take offense with my words"
  2. "I do not intend to offend you"
  3. A cop-out. Or in other words, "See, I have already told you not to be offended, if you are still offended it's your own fault lehh!!"
I might be wrong, but I feel that many people mean 2 or 3 when they use the phrase. And those two usages were what I was referring to in my post.

In my opinion, usage 2, "I do not intend to offend you" doesn't mean much, because:
  1. If you are aware that your words have a high chance of offending the listener but you still say it, then you are hoping for a cheap moral vindication when you say "I do not intend to offend you". It's almost like stabbing someone on the chest and say "I do not intend to hurt you too much".
  2. If you are not sure whether it will offend, then it would be the case of usage 1, which I think is okay.
  3. If you think it wouldn't offend others, then you wouldn't say it in the first place.
  4. If you never thought whether your words would offend others or not, then saying "I do not intend to offend" is another cheap cop-out. It's like a guy wearing a shirt which says "Whatever I do, I do not intend to affect others", and mindlessly ramble, shout, kick, jump on the street without thinking of its consequences. Would you say this guy is acquitted of his behaviours since he never thought about the consequences, and that he put a disclaimer on his shirt beforehand?
For usage 3, I think it's pretty obvious that such defense is inadmissible. You are responsible for what you do, for example you can't expect to be acquitted of killing someone just because you said "sorry" before you do it.

For usage 1 though, I think it's okay, but with an important condition: You should pay attention to avoiding incendiary statements before you say it.

So I am basically condemning the usage 2b and 3. However, stripped to the barebone, my point is: "No Offense" doesn't take away your responsibility over your words. Even if you say "no offense" in any circumstance, the listeners still have the right to be offended or even claim for compensation, regardless of your intention. We should still practise discretion in any case.

5 comments:

Winn said...

no offense


:)

i think its ok to no offense but not too often la of coz..coz , at least it shows that u are aware and concern of other people's feelings.

WP said...

I think "no offense" means "no offense intended", when you're saying something that could be offensive if viewed from a different angle. Believe me, that has happened before...

Of course, one should really try not to offend if one says that...

Eric Fu said...

I personally beg to differ. I think the phrase "no offense" does its job as long as it is not overused. To me, this phrase serves as an early warning that something blatantly offensive language will ensue. I am sure people will be more comfortable to be prepared before listening to something unfavorable, if not asking that person to not continue.

youngyew said...

I guess it depends on what you mean when you say "no offense".

1. "I hope that you do not take offense with my words"

2. "I do not intend to offend you"

3. "A cop-out. Or in other words, "See, I have already told you not to be offended, if you are still offended it's your own fault lehh!!"


I might be wrong, but I feel that many people mean 2 or 3 when they use the phrase. And those two usages were what I was referring to in my post.

In my opinion, usage 2, "I do not intend to offend you" doesn't mean much, because:

a) If you are aware that your words have a high chance of offending the listener but you still say it, then you are hoping for a cheap moral vindication when you say "I do not intend to offend you". It's almost like stabbing someone on the chest and say "I do not intend to hurt you too much".

b) If you are not sure whether it will offend, then it would be the case of usage 1, which I think is okay.

c) If you think it wouldn't offend others, then you wouldn't say it in the first place.

d) If you never thought whether your words would offend others or not, then saying "I do not intend to offend" is another cheap cop-out. It's like a guy wearing a shirt which says "Whatever I do, I do not intend to affect others", and mindlessly ramble, shout, kick, jump on the street without thinking of its consequences. Would you say this guy is acquitted of his behaviours since he never thought about the consequences, and that he put a disclaimer on his shirt beforehand?

For usage 3, I think it's pretty obvious that such defense is inadmissible. You are responsible for what you do, for example you can't expect to be acquitted of killing someone just because you said "sorry" before you do it.

For usage 1 though, I think it's okay, but with an important condition: You should pay attention to avoiding incendiary statements before you say it.

So I am basically condemning the usage 2b and 3. However, stripped to the barebone, my point is: "No Offense" doesn't take away your responsibility over your words. Even if you say "no offense" in any circumstance, the listeners still have the right to be offended or even claim for compensation, regardless of your intention. We should still practise discretion in any case.

youngyew said...

Anyway I might have gone too far by suggesting to drop the phrase altogether. Actually I am only irked by people who defend their offensive statements by claiming that "I have already said no offense, why are you angry wor...".