Learn English – What’s a word for articulating something and making it sound worse


Sorry for the poor title, but I can describe this better through an example. A few weeks ago, one of my friends had a conversation with her boyfriend, and she said that she wouldn't necessarily marry him because he's "not smart enough". The intention and feeling behind this statement is certainly not that he's stupid. But when articulated, this sounds really mean despite the more moderate intent.

I'm looking for a word that describes this phenomenon: where a thought may really has a rather mild intent/emotion behind it while its in your head, but when articulated, the listeners tend to dramatize the statement and the emotion/intent comes across much stronger.

Another example was a friend was trying to describe his new housemates who are from the East Coast and attend Ivy League schools. They're perfectly wonderful and pleasant people, but they're more willing to spend money on luxuries and fun experiences, and love to just constantly do interesting/crazy things. I feel that when you articulate this, you give off the air that they just ball out of control, when the reality is much more subdued. I'm trying to describe this idea — that when you express something the emotion and imagery conjured unintentionally exaggerates reality.

Best Answer

As the commenters on the question note, your examples seem just to show people saying harsh things-- perhaps they misspoke, or regretted their words as soon as they spoke them, but language is founded on the assumption that we mean what we say and say what we mean.

There are cases where what one fails to say can cast an otherwise innocuous statement in a negative light. If I ask "did I seem like a stammering cretin in that meeting?" and you reply "I didn't notice you stammering", that implies you did think I was a cretin, even though you didn't say that and may not have meant it. This is usually referred to as "damning with faint praise".