Is "Bob did what he could in his capability to appease them" a positive or negative comment about Bob?

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    That sentence doesn't make much sense, so neither. “Bob did what he could to appease them” is all you need, and I would say it probably generally reflects more positively than negatively on Bob, though it's really a fairly neutral statement. In the right context, it could easily reflect badly on Bob. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '14 at 11:31
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    Either "Bob did what he could", or "Bob did everything in his power", but not a combination of the two with power inexplicably replaced with capability. – RegDwigнt Jul 24 '14 at 12:43
  • @JanusBahsJacquet even more confused after reading your comment, you said it is all (positive, neutral & negative ) – Seenu Jul 24 '14 at 13:55
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    @Seenu The statement itself is quite neutral—none of the words are inherently positive or negative. But to me at least, doing what you can to appease someone is more likely to be a positive characteristic in a person than a negative one—except you can always use it in a context where them is someone you don't want appeased, and then it suddenly becomes negative. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 '14 at 13:57

One person seeks to appease another if the latter has some need and the power to satisfy that need at the former's expense. By appeasing the latter, i.e. satisfying their need, the former can avoid the latter's self-serving behavior and the expense it levies against the former.

Appeasement is often considered the "easy way out" as it's typically quicker, cheaper, and less risky than more aggressive solutions to conflict. This depicts the appeaser as weak, lazy, and/or fearful. Furthermore, when an oppressor dominates a group, a member of the group who appeases the oppressor might even be considered traitorous, as appeasement facilitates (or at least does nothing to resist) the oppressor's actions against the group as a whole and can even be construed as declaration of alliance with the oppressor.

There is nothing positive about appeasement in any scenario, as its very nature implies submission to a destructively dominant and self-interested power. The given phrase, "Bob did what he could ... to appease them," implies (doubly) that Bob is unable to overcome an oppressive force. It suggests Bob is weak, and that he is in a poor position. The situation might not be "serious" (e.g. if "them" refers to his grumpy children), but this phrase certainly does not paint Bob in a positive light.

Edit: I'm referring to literal positivity and negativity. If you're asking whether or not Bob should be insulted to be spoken of in this way... I'd say not. "You're such an appeaser" is a pretty weak insult, IMO.

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The term appease itself is fairly neutral:

appease - verb

pacify or placate (someone) by acceding to their demands.

assuage or satisfy (a demand or a feeling).

It's not defined as being disparaging, and you can use it fairly neutrally.

I appeased my growling stomach by eating a sandwich.

We appeased the opposing parties, by throwing some concessions in.

However, it does have some negative connotations, going back to pre-World War II, where Britain's policy toward Hitler under Neville Chamberlain was one of appeasement.

This has been heavily criticised as allowing Hitler to gain momentum and power, and World War II happening.

See the Wikipedia article on Appeasement for more details.

See also this question: What is the polite word describing a person who unreasonably says and does things to make a person happy?

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    I'd say that the noun 'appeasement' (being largely confined to the political arena) has more of this negative connotation, and for the reason you give. A tweaked quote of Sir Winston Churchill: "Appeasement is like feeding the crocodile in the hope that it will eat you last." – Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 '14 at 13:15

Appeasement as a national policy got negative connotation during WWII:

"The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain towards Nazi Germany between 1937 and 1939. His policies of avoiding war with Germany have been the subject of intense debate for seventy years among academics, politicians and diplomats. The historians' assessments have ranged from condemnation for allowing Adolf Hitler's Germany to grow too strong, to the judgment that he had no alternative and acted in Britain's best interests. At the time, these concessions were widely seen as positive, and the Munich Pact concluded on 30 September 1938 among Germany, Britain, France, and Italy prompted Chamberlain to announce that he had secured "peace for our time." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeasement)

Regarding actions of a single human, I'd say the connotations are fairly neutral.

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Bob did what he could to appease them.

I would consider them to be the insulted party here. Appease is being used in the sense of soothing or pacifying. Adults don't need to be soothed or pacified.

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  • How do you get the concept of an insulted party in that sentence? – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jul 24 '14 at 21:12
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    appease has 3 different meanings, when used of a person it means to soothe or pacify. You can soothe or pacify a frightened or cranky child without it being insulting, but I'd consider it to be very insulting to a rational adult to treat them that way. – Jason M Jul 24 '14 at 21:27

I would interpret "Bob did what he could to appease them." to imply that he did not agree with their position, but he attempted to placate them anyway.

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    I'm not sure there's enough context from just that sentence to infer anything about a disagreement between Bob and "them." In any case, this doesn't really answer the question of whether there's a positive or a negative connotation. – Kyle Strand Jul 24 '14 at 15:36
  • I can see that. However, it is clear that the other party is displeased about something. Is there a difference between appeasing someone and satisfying them? It seems that the first is more about their attitude; the second is about the issue. – Metro Jul 24 '14 at 18:43
  • Neither of those statements tells anyone anything about the speaker's attitude, though, which is what this question is about. – Kyle Strand Jul 24 '14 at 22:15

It's "kind of a negative" word.

You know how during a war, when country X is invaded, some people "go along" with the invaders, so as to cause less death, etc? That's "collaborating." So, "even worse" than appeasing, is collaborating - let's say.

I would say that usually -- not always -- appease has a somewhat negative connotation.

It's a bit like speaking about things like ... bureaucracy, government departments, red tape, wishy-washy, flim-flam, dithering.

It is usually but not always, somewhat negative.

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