So we have a guy in my office. He can say almost anything. Race jokes, gender jokes, he is just really inappropriate about everything but funny.

He is not a racist or sexist and gets along with everyone fine. He has such a history of being inappropriate that basically anything goes for him. Things that would get someone else a seat in HR, everyday norm for him. He just has no filter. But now his inappropriateness has become appropriate for him.

Edit: I will add that Theodore mentioned "The Office" bosses, both Michael Scott and David Brent. Pretty close I would say. Add in being a little more touchy-feely and not worrying about kissing ass to higher ups and it might be there. The big thing is that people shrug this kind of person off because the person isn't trying to be inappropriate, they just don't know better. So sometimes we get slightly offended, but then we are like... he doesn't know any better. Then we feel sorry for him then people like him more.

  • Is your colleague inappropriate just for jokes or else?
    – user66974
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 18:09
  • 3
    Reminds me of irreverent. Commented May 23, 2014 at 10:49
  • 6
    If his work conduct so inappropriate that colleagues have become accustomed to his indecorous humor, I believe the proper term would be a "Michael Scott" (or "David Brent" for you Britons).
    – Ted Broda
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 18:17
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    Tolerated? It's not really appropriate, but people pretend it is.
    – user28567
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 1:02
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    A liability? Or a clown?
    – erickson
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 2:22

17 Answers 17


Oaf means someone who is clumsy and foolish, but doesn't say anything about intent or how others perceive the person. A lovable oaf is more specifically what you mean, but of course isn't a single word.

Come to think of it, buffoon is really close, but maybe a bit more insulting than your intent.

  • Lovable oaf is pretty good Jason. Was hoping for something more exact but it gets the basic point across. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 23:46

Sounds like an "Equal opportunity offender".

(And yes, the perceived offensiveness may decrease when there's no particular group being singled out)

  • I am an equal opportunity offender because I like to crack jokes on everyone. He doesn't even understand he is offending. Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 23:47
  • @RyeɃreḁd I don't think that's the sense of equal opportunity offender. The idea is that such a person's many offensive jokes are supposedly canceled out by the fact that the target of them rotates (whether intentionally or unintentionally), but if the jokes were only aimed at one group it would make other people deservedly furious on account of racism, ageism, etc. Also one doesn't need to know one is offending to offend.
    – Merk
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 3:54
  • @Mark: right, directly jokes consistently at one group would be interpreted as animosity toward that group. Spreading the jokes around would just be interpreted as poor social skills.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 4:02

A certain politician (in the U.S.) was referred to as the Teflon Man. The outrageous things that he said, that would have hurt almost anyone else's career, seemed not to "stick" to him, but "bounce" off him as if he were teflon.

  • This is pretty good too. It is somewhere in between a Teflon Man and lovable oaf. Teflon Man just seems too smooth. Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 3:54
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    There's always a "Teflon Oaf"
    – pavja2
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 13:15

"He touches people, he says odd things in meetings, whatever goes. Even the higher ups shrug him off as amusement."

Based on your description of his personality and the type of behavior he's able to get away with, I'd call this person a charmer:

"(n) a person with an attractive and engaging personality, typically one who uses this to impress or manipulate others." -New Oxford American Dictionary

  • I get where you where going with it. He is more side-show freak than charmer. Sometimes he might be a little charming but mainly just inappropriate. He would offend you though but you would just shrug it off because he doesn't mean to offend you. Commented May 25, 2014 at 4:04

village idiot

I think this is because he is accepted in the community as he is with all of his quirk, licensed to be inappropriate, in a way as you described appropriately inappropriate.


He could be called a madcap.

A madcap is an "amusingly eccentric person", according to the Oxford English Dictionary. This word seems apposite for a guy who "says odd things" and is "shrugged off as amusement".

Additional words to describe inappropriate yet endearing buffoons include:

  • wisecracker
  • jokester

Some related adjectives include:

  • zany
  • irreverent
  • sassy
  • audacious

These words have slightly different connotations, but all imply affable gaucherie.


He's a TWIT! I thought a long time about this. The word did not come to mind, so I tried to think of a person or character in a movie who made inappropriate sexist, racist remarks or jokes and yet was either ignored or tolerated or thought to be funny. Austin Powers, the master of the single entendre ('Shall we shag now or shag later?'), became the model. The search was now on for a word to describe Austin Powers. In a number of movie reviews of 'Austin Powers--The Spy Who Shagged Me', Austin is described as a 'twit'--an annoying, tasteless but harmless pest. So I respectfully submit 'TWIT' as the appropriate term to describe the office worker. In British slang á 'twit' is 'a silly, annoying person; a fool.' (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary).

  • I was thinking something like twit, as well. Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 21:03

In Australia he'd be a larrikin.

  • Do people usually shrug off the acts of a larrikin? Sorry I have never heard the word. It could work I guess if it has the right connotation. Commented May 25, 2014 at 4:06

Obliviously irreverent and one of the nouns people have suggested, maybe? He is an obliviously irreverent jokester.

  • +1 for irreverent, but it doesn't require any qualifier, in fact, it is better in this case to not qualify it, because he is universally irreverent.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 14:59


I think "cheeky" comes pretty close. According to Google, it means "impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way." Merriam-Webster gives "rude and showing a lack of respect often in a way that seems playful or amusing."

I tried to think of someone being irreverent in a way that people other people don't mind, and imagining what someone would say to them: "Oh, you cheeky little bastard, you!" So if you want a noun phrase, you could use "cheeky bastard" or "cheeky fellow."



There is a Scottish comedian named Frankie Boyle who is one of the most popular and criticized stand-up comedians today. His jokes are not only politically incorrect but offensive, crude, curt, caustic, abrasive, insensitive and downright shocking. His jokes make people gasp in disbelief. If you observe any of his live shows on DVD you'll see members of the audience placing their hands instinctively over their mouths, as you do when you witness a horrific car accident, or have been given terrible news. And yet, the audience laugh hysterically at his jokes.

Boyle's shows are famed for being near the knuckle and people expect him to continually push the boundaries. You could say that his inappropriate humor has become appropriate for him.

Here is one review of his live show:

As the title said [Frankie Boyle At His Best] this was Frankie Boyle doing what he does best - telling the kind of jokes that if we told them would get us supermurdered in no time flat. Covering a wide range of topics from the Paralympics to Jordan, he made the audience laugh and gasp in equal measure (...). Favourite moment: Calling the Paralympics Embarrassing Bodies Sports Day. [Embarrassing Bodies is also a well-known Channel 4 TV show in the UK]

Below is another example of his humor, which some might find offensive:

Ann Widdecombe says she's a virgin for religious reasons - the reason being that God made her incredibly ugly.

An appropriate adjective to describe this type of comedian and one which also fits the OP's co-worker would be outrageous. The phrase an outrageous comedian, is no longer confined to someone who is considered shocking or highly offensive, nowadays it is almost a compliment, an expression which expresses their unconventional and controversial behaviour but in a more positive light. We recognize that person as being shocking but also funny at the same time.


...people shrug this kind of person off because the person isn't trying to be inappropriate, they just don't know better. So sometimes we get slightly offended, but then we are like... he doesn't know any better. Then we feel sorry for him then people like him more.

Archie Bunker is an actual dictionary definition:

a poorly educated blue-collar worker, holding ultraconservative, racist, and male-chauvinist opinions.

Archibald "Archie" Bunker gives examples of the behavior noted in the question's description

  • Maybe Archie Bunker was the 70s version of Michael Scott but using this wouldn't work. It has too many connotations and none of them are the lovable racist. Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 3:44
  • @RyeɃreḁd, I don't know if you watched 'All In The Family' then, or on retro TV, but he was a much loved person who followed the criteria indicated. Further, 'Archie Bunker's cultural influence is bolstered by the fact that is chair is in the Smithsonian, and he was mentioned by (no one other than!) President Richard Nixon on the Watergate tapes. Superficially, (and by like-minded) he may have been perceived as a "lovable racist"/bigot but ironically, Carroll O'Connor's show was an equal opportunity playing ground for Black actors, and the story lines were groundbreaking.
    – Third News
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 5:11

fool, methinks the bard would say.

  • 1
    Shakespeare populated numerous plays with "the fool." Feste in Twelfth Night, Bottom in Midsummer's Night Dream, Touchstone in As you Like It are examples. They are secondary characters to the arc of the plot, and often violate conventions of polite speech. They are considered beneath contempt by the other characters, and so allowance is given. But their commentary is thought-provoking for the audience. It seems to me that a person whose speech is so socially inappropriate as to be appropriate only to himself would fit Shakespeare's model of "the fool." Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 22:23


From Urban Dictionary

  1. highly objectionable or offensive; odious: obnoxious behavior.
  2. annoying or objectionable due to being a showoff or attracting undue attention to oneself: an obnoxious little brat.

I think obnoxious people are usually shrugged off as just being obnoxious.


I would use "tongue-in-cheek" as an adjective to qualify him. Also may be "cynical".


"That's just Ted being Ted"

When someone has been tolerated in their unorthodox behaviour for long enough and gotten away with it, others will filter their perception of him/her to the point that they are no longer offended. If asked about the behaviour, they might reply "That's just Ted being Ted."

An example is "Boris being Boris", a reference to the eccentric British politician.

I realize that the buffoonery could be an intentional charade hiding a sinister subplot, but I suspect that's simply Boris being Boris.


I can't offer up much more than a word, though I wish I could provide a back drop in the manner the other responders have done above.

Maybe your word is: Crass?

  • 2
    That just means inappropriate. It does not mean "so inappropriate that it's appropriate". Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 7:41

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