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Is Flattery Good or Bad?
Flattery is a noun that means the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of favoring oneself with the subject. Flattery is sometimes used in pick-up lines to attempt to initiate romantic courtship.
Flattery often connotes insincerity. It derives from ME. [OFr.flaterie (mod.flatterie)]. Historically, flattery was used as a standard form of discourse, meaning conversation, when addressing a king or queen. During the Renaissance period, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch. For example, Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene or William Shakespeare flattering King James I in Macbeth.
Most associations with flattery are negative. Flatterers are sometimes described by pejorative phrases, having a negative or degrading effect, such as “suck-up” or “brown-noser”. Negative descriptions of flattery go as far back in history as the bible.
There are several synonyms for the word flattery. Several synonyms for flattery include: excessive, ingratiating praise, adulation, and blandishment. All these words are used to describe excessive compliments.
There are also several antonyms. Antonyms for flattery include: belittle, castigate, condemn, criticize, denounce, insult, offend, clash, deface, and spoil.
It is also used in famous works of art. As William Shakespeare once said:
”Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
Drink up the monarch’s plague, this flattery?
Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true,
And that your love taught it this alchemy,
To make of monsters, and things indigest,
Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble,
Creating every bad a perfect best
As fast as objects to his beams assemble?
O, ‘tis the first,’ tis flattery in my seeing,
And my great mind most kingly drinks it up;
Mine eye well knows what with his gust is ‘greeing,
And to his palate doth prepare the cup.
If it be poisoned, ‘tis the lesser sin
That mine age loves it and doth first begin.”
The poem in its entirety means that the plague facing the monarch is flattery. He sees flattery and he accepts its challenge. The words are kind, but untrue and he believes it a lesser sin that he likes it when it is first said, even though it is based on false pretenses, insincere effort.
All around me I seek to amaze,
Yet I open my heart to none of them.
But even the worst I forgave,
for all said I was good with my pen.
‘Flattery won’t get you anywhere.’
yet used subtly, it always will.
If you can make me think you care,
I will be yours, yours to hold still.
But do remember, I am wise-
for, like you, I wear a disguise.
The writer is suggesting that everywhere he looks he sees flattery, but he forgave them for the worst because they said he was good at writing. He believes flattery will not get you anywhere, but used right, it can. He says if they can please him, he will be theirs, but he, too, has a hidden agenda.
Adlai Stevenson once said that “I suppose flattery hurts no one, that is, if he doesn’t inhale” (Stevenson.297). It means that flattery does not hurt anyone as long as he does not breathe.
“Flattery is no more than what raises in a man’s mind an idea of preference which he has not,” spoken by Edmund Burke, he believes flattery is a preference that a man cannot choose. “Flattery is an ensnaring quality, and leaves a very dangerous impression. It swells a man’s imagination, entertains his vanity, and drives him to doting upon his own person,” Jeremy Collier. Flattery boasts one’s ego and make him believe to be the best, but it is a dangerous quality.
In the play King James I the Fourth, Hotspur makes a speech using flattery.
“Hot. Well said, my noble Scot: if speaking truth
In this fine age were not thought flattery,
Such attribution should the Douglas have,
As not a soldier of this season’s stamp
Should go so general current through the world.
By God, I cannot flatter; do defy
The tongues of soothers; but a braver place
In mine heart’s love hath no man than yourself.
task me to my word; approve me, lord.”
Hotspur is saying that Scot speaks well if it is true, but flattery if it is not. He cannot flatter and he wants God to challenge the flatterers. There is a brave place in his heart for God and he wants God to believe him. The word flattery as used in the above passage means insincere praise.
“Oh, how I lie! If a fellow be a rudely awkward person, I tell him
how sensitive and discriminating he is. If a girl is so ugly that she
must sneak up on a glass of water, I allude to her great beauty. If
one’s performance is mediocre at best, I applaud his great talent. I
praise the skinflint on his generosity and the hysteric on his
levelheaded judiciousness. And it makes them all feel good”
The author is talking about how if someone is rude and stupid he tells him how sensitive he is. If a girl is ugly he tells her that she is beautiful. If a man is bad at his job he tells him he is great and the best, even though he is not. And all the people believe him.
The following article states that a certain co-director often flattered the boss even when she looked her worst. The years were obviously blissful because she was always being flattered by her employees.
“For six years I worked in an office where one of my co-directors
was supremely gifted at giving compliments.”
Flattery, although sometimes negative, is often used in songs whether good or bad. Take for example the Aly and AJ song.
“We both have taste in tears,
You’re denying what I say
Don’t act like it’s okay
cause it’s not okay
I will admit if you’ll admit it
Its harder than we both thought
It’s easier to fall apart
look where we are
I can forgive, I can’t forget it
You left me here with all these scars
And you can’t deny the hardest part, I’m not in your arms
It’s not in the stars!
I’m not sorry, I’m not sorry, I’m not sorry
I will admit if you’ll admit it
Just please don’t flatter yourself
Please don’t flatter yourself
Please, don’t flatter yourself
You’re not the only one
Whose heart has ever fell
Please don’t exaggerate
Don’t tell me you’re okay
We’re hurt more than we appear
The world will never know.”
The song is stating that the person is denying the flattery. It is saying that it is easier to fall apart because she was left with all those scars. She is telling him not to flatter her because she knows he is not okay. They are both flattering themselves so the world does not know how hurt they are. They will admit they are hurt if they do not flatter each themselves.
In settlement, the word flattery appears in almost every day conversation, whether intentionally or not. It can be used in quotes, songs, poems, or plays. As shown, it has several other words that mean the same thing. Flattery is the action or practice flattering. It is meant to insinuate kindness and “butt-kissing,” but it is almost always used negatively without actually being negative.
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"Is Flattery Good or Bad?." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Apr 2014