Person A says to B: "I thought you were smarter/stronger/better/more trustworthy than that. I should have known better."

I was thinking it would be termed passive aggressive, but after reading up on it, that doesn't seem right. I'm tripped up on how focused on the Person A the two sentences are. Typically an insult would be "You're not very smart" and that would be that. But this is "I'm disappointed in myself for thinking better of you."

Is there a good term for this sort of insult?

  • Who are you describing, the person who is disappointed or the one who is the object of the disappointment?
    – bib
    Jan 25, 2014 at 17:01
  • @bib. I'm glad I'm not alone in not comprehending the question.
    – Babs
    Jan 25, 2014 at 17:10
  • "Who are you describing" -- in which sentence? I edited the question.
    – jcollum
    Jan 25, 2014 at 17:27
  • I'm currently doing a "promotional tour" round ELU on behalf of the 1951 movie The Browning Version, so here's an example from 52 minutes in... "I'm — I'm afraid I said something just now that hurt you very much. It's myself you must forgive, sir. Believe me, I'm most desperately sorry." ... "There's no need. I should have known for myself." Jan 27, 2014 at 4:25

3 Answers 3


I would suggest insincere self-deprecation. Self-deprecation, by itself means

belittling or undervaluing oneself; excessively modest.

Many discussions of self deprecation, especially when used humorously, suggest that it is often insincere.

Usually when someone says It's not you, it's me they really mean Yes, it's you. Goodbye. Good riddance!


Where will it all end? Will someone else ask how we categorise B's response if he comes back with...

"Don't feel bad. It's entirely my fault. I should have known you'd have unrealistic expectations of me".

Not exactly an established rhetorical/grammatical category, but I'd say they're all examples of...

insincere blame transference

In practice, a very common expression (not limited to OP's "blame transference" context) is...

false modesty - behavior that is intended to seem humble but comes across as fake and unflattering.


Most people commonly use the term double-edged sword for an insult such as this.

  • Are you sure about this? Jan 25, 2014 at 20:12
  • yeah I wonder if you're sure too -- that's not how I hear that phrase used
    – jcollum
    May 12, 2020 at 16:29

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