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I have seen it on the Internet as follows (abbreviated as IMAO):

Only the Muggles will find it offensive IMAO.

I know it's contrasted with the common phrase "in my humble opinion," but I still don't know what impression it tries to convey, nor what is the appropriate situation for it to be used. Is it a somewhat unfriendly phrase? How do I use it right?

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It means what it says: this is your arrogant opinion. Use it when you mean what it says - or when you mean the opposite, using irony. – Drew Jan 16 at 7:04

The original term was "in my humble opinion", often abbreviated IMHO. I remember it appearing on the early Internet, especially in Usenet discussion groups. It often got used in flame wars to try to reduce the impact of dogmatic opinions. However it became obvious that the people using it were not being at all humble, and hence "in my arrogant opinion" (IMAO) started to be used in reaction. Its usage is partly a self-deprecating joke, and partly to acknowledge that the opinion is indeed arrogant.

As for usage, these days I avoid both. When I find myself tempted to use them I go back and remove the arrogance from my statement instead.

A related saying is "There is no such thing as a humble opinion".

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So you suggest using "blah blah blah , in my opinion" (or IMO)? – einpoklum Jan 16 at 9:01
    
No, I would revise the "blah blah blah" to remove the arrogance that prompted me to add the qualifier. – Paul Johnson Jan 16 at 12:07
    
... and then it's your humble opinion again? (I'm asking you to spell out what you're suggestion.) – einpoklum Jan 16 at 15:05
    
So I might, in a political argument, find myself thinking that "All those people who vote for X are just dupes of a slick populist, IMHO". But that's pretty arrogant, so I'd start looking for examples where X had said things that were popular but false and citing those. Then rather than expressing an arrogant opinion I would be presenting a fact-based argument. And you never know, I might find I was wrong. – Paul Johnson Jan 20 at 18:09

Strength of belief

IMHO is often treated as a qualifier with a meaning like "I believe X is true, but I might be mistaken".

IMAO isn't nearly as frequent, and would (IMHO) be used only sarcastically, but it has an implied literal meaning of "I believe X is true and I'm really, really sure that it is so". I have seen IMNHO or 'in my not so humble opinion' used with such intent.

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In my experience, "in my not so humble opinion" is abbreviated "IMNSHO" (one letter for each word). – Scott Jan 16 at 16:46

Paul Johnson is certainly correct in identifying the phrase "in my arrogant opinion" as being an ironic reversal of the set phrase "in my humble opinion." As this Ngram chart for the years 1600–2008 illustrates, however, the phrase "in my humble opinion" has been around for a lot longer than the Internet has:

In fact, the phrase attained its greatest popularity in written English between 1700 and 1850. But the earliest confirmed instances that a Google Books search turns up are even older, from speeches by a Major John Wildman, in "London's Liberties: or, A Learned Argument of Law and Reason" (1650, republished with some alterations in 1682):

I pray my Lord observe these words in this Record, the whole Commonalty that is to say the more able and discreet men of every ward. And to confirm this, if there be any need of it, we can produce another Record in 113 fol. libro C. Where election is said to be made by the Commonalty summoned thereunto : yet in Pag. 112, of the same, it is said men of every Ward did chuse : whence I collect that by the expression of the Commonalty sumoned hereto, is understood the twelve men from the Wards; so that it appeareth clearly in my humble opinion, that it was the Practice of the City for near two hundred Years, to Chuse by their Representatives, before it came to be the Usage of the City, to Chuse by the Livery-men of the Companies.

...

Now my Lord I humbly offer it to this Honourable Court, whether this opinion of the Judges about Elections produced by Mr. Maynard as the pillar whereon they build the lawfulness of the Liveries Elections, do not rather speak them to be unlawful, in my humble opinion, this that those learned Gentlemen flourished like Goliath's sword against us, slays themselves.

The first Google Books author to see the charm of "in my arrogant opinion" may have been Louis Leland, A Personal Kiwi-Yankee Dictionary (1980):

In my opinion change will not come about from total refusal to deal with south Africa but rather a combination of the carrot and the stick. 'We will play if you meet our terms,' rather than 'we won't play until you change your whole society'. Evolution not revolution is, in my arrogant opinion, the way to go.

Becky Symens, Acronyms Dictionary for Texting - Chatting - E-mail (2010) has this simple entry for IMAO:

IMAO In my arrogant opinion

Symens also has entries for IMBO ("In my biased opinion"), IMCDO ("In my conceited dogmatic opinion"), IMCO ("In my considered opinion"), IMHO ("In my humble opinion"), IMNERHO ("In my not even remotely humble opinion"), IMNSHO ("In my not so humble opinion"), IMNSVHO ("In my not so very humble opinion"), IMO ("In my opinion"), IMOBO ("In my own biased opinion"), and IMVHO ("In my very humble opinion"). The "Acronyms" appendix to R. Scott Perry, The Modem Dictionary (1994) has the same entry for IMAO:

IMAO In My Arrogant Opinion

thereby establishing that people have been using this initialism for more than twenty years.


With regard to what impression a writer tries to convey by using IMAO, I think it is a kind of playful acknowledgment that the accompanying assertion is an opinion, and that the writer thinks the IMHO formulation is disingenuous and (more often than not) insincere. But that doesn't mean that IMAO is used to emphasize that the writer is arrogant; it's more lighthearted than that, and as I noted earlier it plays on the reversal of the set phrase abbreviated IMHO.

As for when it is appropriate to use IMAO, I would say you should reserve it for situations where you are confident that your readers will not misinterpret your intentions. If you mean it jocularly, don't use it in a room full of humorless literalists who may take it as an admission of arrogance on your part.

Out of context, I wouldn't take it as an unfriendly phrase, although in some situations it might be intended aggressively (for example if it appeared immediately after someone else used IMHO in a comment with which the IMAO writer disagreed. But as is so often the case with language, context is a decisive factor in how a term will be interpreted; and context provides crucial clues to the author's intentions.

And finally, the only advice I can offer on the question of when you might use it appropriately is to play it by ear. Look at instances where others have used the term, consider how their usage was received by others, and then decide whether you are comfortable using it in similar situations. In general, I think, you are better off using an expression whose nuances you thoroughly understand than one that you have only a shaky grasp of.

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The OP asks 1. what impression it tries to convey 2.... what is the appropriate situation for it to be used 3. Is it a somewhat unfriendly phrase? 4. How do I use it right? You appear to have answered a different question. – Mari-Lou A Jan 16 at 9:22
    
Nevertheless, it's a really cool Google API to represent word occurrences over the years. Thanks for sharing this! – bobbel Jan 16 at 9:52
1  
@Mari-LouA: You're right, of course, that my answer was more concerned with following up on certain aspects of Paul Johnson's answer than with answering the OP's questions. I still think that the earlier parts of my answer are more interesting than the brief answers to the OP's practical questions that I've added just now; but I acknowledge the necessity of adding those answers because, as you say, my original answer addressed a different question. – Sven Yargs Jan 16 at 10:43

I would take it to mean "In my opinion (which I'll guarantee will not be popular/politically correct)..."

I would also expect that it carries overtones of "but I have superior/special knowledge and will be vindicated in the future, despite the inevitable outcry from those less-enlightened."

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