Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm trying to complete the following sentence:

It's not specifically polite, but it's not offensive either; it's __ agnostic.

Is there a common category term for polite, offensive, rude, or respectful? I've tried to love politeness, or courtesy, but those don't seem to fit, to me.

I agree with many of the comments that agnostic is either a poor word choice, or at least overly restrictive.

share|improve this question
1  
A slightly different form may fit better, although it becomes quite a mouthful: courteousness. –  Hellion Dec 21 '12 at 2:31
    
You can say "it's {courteousness / courtesy} agnostic". Either form is fine. –  user21497 Dec 21 '12 at 2:33
3  
I don't really like this use of agnostic. To me, agnosticism implies a choice and is used when expressing the idea that someone is of the belief that certain unknowns are unknowable. A person chooses to be agnostic, but things can't. I prefer neutral here: it's courtesy neutral not only because of the choice aspect but because what you're talking about is not unknown and unknowable. I know others have latched onto the X-agnostic idiom and I don't expect that to change but thought it was worth mentioning. –  Jim Dec 21 '12 at 3:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm not aware of any word that's a good fit in the sentence as shown; more possibilities may exist if agnostic is replaced by neutral or free. However, consider the word value:

It's not specifically polite, but it's not offensive either; it's value-agnostic.

Note, value is being used above to represent rules, principles, conventions and judgement regarding manners, etiquette, civility, politesse, habits and behavior, rather than in some other sense.

Two possible rewordings that avoid the need for a word as requested include the following:

It's neither specifically polite, nor offensive either; it's neutral.
It's not specifically polite, nor offensive; it is amoral.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for neutral. (Well, the whole answer is pretty good, but the very first thought I had was, "Why don't you just say 'neutral'?") –  J.R. Dec 21 '12 at 11:01

How about mores:

A set of moral norms or customs derived from generally accepted practices. Mores derive from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws.

So you'd have: "It's not specifically polite, but it's not offensive either; it's mores-agnostic."

share|improve this answer
    
I feel even this one isn't quite right. But I seriously doubt there's anything better that's not at the very least several words. –  FumbleFingers Dec 21 '12 at 5:10

It is a matter of courtesy, and so is courtesy-agnostic if you would.

share|improve this answer
    
As has probably been accepted by all now, agnostic is a poor starting-point. An alternative to courtesy-neutral would be deference-neutral - but it has the same problem in that we're just using the word for one end of the spectrum to denote the entire range of possibilities all the way through to offensive. I can't even think of an entire sentence that describes what exactly that "spectrum" actually is, though. –  FumbleFingers Dec 21 '12 at 5:06

The problem here is that being polite is more or less the normal state of affairs, and being rude is conspicuous failure to be polite. The OP's proposed utterance is probably going to be awkward no matter what one chooses, just as the following would be a bit difficult to interpret:

She's not pretty, and she's not plain; she's looks neutral.

On the other hand, try out the following, which picks out two adjectives occupying non-contiguous ends of the attractiveness continuum. (It sounds easier to interpret):

She's not gorgeous, and she's not ugly; she's looks neutral.

To get what the OP wants, let's make a similar adjustment:

It's not prim, and it's not offensive; it's politeness-neutral.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.