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I was just about to tell someone how something "wouldn't really be much useful" if they leave it the way it is — which is like a much more polite version of useless, but I just couldn't find the word. I'm guessing I just don't know it.

What is an idiomatic euphemism for non-useful?


It was actually an answer to a question, and I was wondering how I would say this answer is not really useful without hurting the person.

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Something that is futile or done in vain? – Autoresponder Oct 30 '12 at 19:39
I thought of that too, but futile and vain seem worse, no? – Chibueze Opata Oct 30 '12 at 19:40
@OP: Depends on your context. I'm upvoting ineffective ! – Autoresponder Oct 30 '12 at 19:42
“not much useful” isn't grammatically correct, by the way. You mean “not much use” or “not very useful”. – Mr Lister Oct 30 '12 at 21:49
On a different note, suggesting that an answer is 'not useful' may not serve much purpose. Rather, you should explain why you think it is of no use, and let the answerer get your point. – Kris Oct 31 '12 at 4:47
up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to this list of British "euphemisms"...

"Very interesting" means "I don't agree/I don't believe you"

(the hapless American assumes the Brit means "I am impressed", so the euphemism has worked!). But I personally think it's a good way of saying "Although what you say is interesting, and might be useful in some other context, it has no practical value in relation to my current problem."

Older Americans may recall Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, featuring the catchphrase

"Very interesting ... but stupid!"

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+1 for laugh-in reference. I remember that! :-) – Kristina Lopez Oct 30 '12 at 23:18
Nice one, but definitely not something you will use with a respected person... – Chibueze Opata Oct 31 '12 at 2:12
@Chibueze Opata: Of course you can. If your boss comes along and starts advising you in great detail how you should tackle some problem, you might know that what he's saying is worthless, and that you'll completely ignore his advice once he gets out of the way and lets you get on with things. But you might well say "Thanks for the advice, it was very interesting" if you can't bring yourself to lie outright and say "Thanks for the advice, which I'm sure I will find useful". – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '12 at 2:41
Haha, you have a very interesting personality @FumbleFingers, my boss did detect it outright, so it'll be like another dark bazooka behind curtains :) – Chibueze Opata Oct 31 '12 at 2:50
@Chibueze Opata: Ah. Sounds like your boss has a fine-tuned {bull}shit-detector, so you can't safely use well-established euphemisms. Just tell him his help was "useful", and tell yourself that if it had really been any help, you'd have said it was "really useful". Unless he checks you out here on ELU, he'll never catch on. – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '12 at 3:00

"This answer doesn't suit (or doesn't fit) my needs." In my opinion, this puts the perception of shortcoming on my needs instead of their answer.

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The appropriate euphemism for "completely useless but still quite nice" is entirely decorative. See for example its use on Wikipedia, for Dutch Gable and this review of some headphones.

Edit: Another option might be well-intentioned. This would even be applicable for the edited version of this question; that is, the "useless" thing is an answer to a question.

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Sorry, David - this seems totally off target to OP's request. – Kristina Lopez Oct 30 '12 at 21:21
@KristinaLopez - Right, I didn't see the edit. I answered the question the way it was at the time that I saw the question. The edit changes the question somewhat. Thanks for explaining your downvote though; much better than a hit-and-run. – user16269 Oct 30 '12 at 21:23
Ouch! I tried to undo the downvote but am now locked out. If you edit your answer i can take it back! – Kristina Lopez Oct 30 '12 at 23:17
It's OK, @KristinaLopez, I don't really care about the downvote. If I think of a good answer to the edited question, I will edit the answer accordingly. But right now, I can't think of such a term. – user16269 Oct 30 '12 at 23:30

"Not exactly the thing" or "not quite it".

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In the context of addressing an answer, I think it's fine to be direct (no need to be euphemistic or use a substitute word like "interesting"), as long as you do it politely. You don't have to use the word "useless" but don't hide what you are trying to say either behind a word that does not mean what you are actually trying to say. The exact wording would depend upon the question asked and the answer given, but some examples might look like:

I appreciate the input, but unfortunately that doesn't work in this case.


Thanks, but I don't think that can be applied to this problem.

As long as you thank them for trying and acknowledge that what they offered was a fair attempt at helping, they probably will not be offended/upset/hurt that it happens to not be useful to your particular circumstance.

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One of these days I'm going to surprise you by making use of your gems of wisdom. Your excellent advice has been duly noted. Wait, I'm just going to write it all down.

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