Compliment: definition (noun) - an expression of admiration or praise; (verb) - to express admiration or praise.
A compliment then is a verbal gift, if you like, that is offered to make the recipient of the compliment feel good about themselves, or force the recipient to notice, because others including the compliment-giver have noticed, that they have done something well. To receive a compliment is one of life's pleasures. It should be a surprise. It should not come with any sense of expectation. It should be delivered genuinely. If it meets all these things, then it brings with it a warm glow; a bit like love. Fish for, or reject a compliment and it loses its gilt edge and become distinctly soured and chilly.
The word has origins in the mid 17th century, from the French compliment and Italian complimento. The complimenti of this blog title means congratulations. Which is, in itself, a means of praising someone. Well done on being who you are! On achieving so many birthdays! On rising up the career ladder! On passing your exams! All imply that admiration and praise are directed enthusiastically at the recipient - Complimenti!
When did you last receive a compliment?
When did you last give one?
Do you remember your best compliment?
And what if the compliment you remember is not gilt-edged but two-edged; a little bit nice but nasty at the same time? The barbed or poisoned compliment delivered with calculated malice; meant to hurt and belittle and insult the recipient. Sometimes, referred to as a back-handed compliment; verbally striking the recipient with the back of the hand. The trusting open palm, turned away, thought entirely of gain to self and nothing but pain offered to the recipient; the true intention concealed behind words with dual meaning. The back-handed compliment is avaricious, cowardly, perfunctory and mean. It criticises while being superficially nice.
"you look great for your age"
"I love that dress; it does wonders for your figure"
"Wow! I can't believe you're married to him/her; he's/she's gorgeous"
"I really respect you, especially the way you don't care how you look"
"The book's brilliant; I didn't know you knew so many big words"
"Your garden looks beautiful; I love the way the weeds give it a natural look"
"I love the way you achieve the shabby-chic look of your house so effortlessly."
Have you received any of these? Or any similar? Or worse, have you delivered any of them? How did it make you feel? Pretty sick? Bitter? Ashamed even?
There's a saying, 'Do something nice every day.' Delivering a compliment is a nice thing to do. But not if it's calculated. Log looking-for-good-things-that-other-people-do into your daily radar. And if you notice something acknowledge it. Deliver a compliment. Make it genuine. Then, feel some of the radiated warmth - a warmth that you created - and feel better about yourself.
Back for a moment to the subject of best compliments - for me it's any favourable comment, that I then take as a compliment, about my children, dogs, garden, house, writing. About children = very best.
But perhaps the best ever - the one that made me really warm inside - received when I was wracked with doubt and had my worried face on and was fretting that maybe I hadn't done enough or listened long enough or had acted bluntly towards someone else, was delivered recently by Eldest. It was quite the nicest thing to be told. If I share it, it would turn me from a humbled and grateful and glowing with warmth recipient to fisher-man. I don't wish to fish.
It has been hard correcting the spelling from complement to compliment throughout this procrasti-ramble and I apologise if I have missed any.
To complement (verb) is to enhance something by improving it.
Confusion arises when things are either complimentary or complementary. I don't frequent jewellery shops but the daughter between Littlest and Eldest ... perhaps, Middlette and her brother could be Middlet, or Midda and Middo, or Waggimold and Amadaegus (they will understand!) ... has a broken ring and we found ourselves in the jewellers at the end of last week, where I spied this calligraphied notice 'Complementary engraving on every wedding ring.' Now, while the engraving might be artistically executed and enhance the emotional significance of the ring, I think what they meant was complimentary which means free. Perhaps, if the engraver was confident of his skills, it could be 'complimentary complementary engraving.'
Maybe other things, closer to life and theme of this blog, can also be both -
Four-legged-friend, who will wait for hours at the bottom of the stairs, for me -
- the love of a dog is both freely-given and life-enhancing; complimentary and complementary.