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Main Question

I consider [noun] [adjective].

usually means that I arrived at the conclusion that [noun] has the property described by [adjective]. However, when the adjective is offensive, this phrase has adopted an additional meaning, namely

I consider this statement offensive.

is often used to express that one is offended by the statement, which is not the same thing. For example not being Atlantean, I am not offended by the statement “All Atlanteans are mentally challenged and wear underpants on their head.”¹, but I still hold the opinion that it is offensive (or at least that it would be, if Atlantis were real).

With to consider sth. offensive being out of the game, what other concise construction can I use to express that I arrived at the conclusion that a statement is offensive – in a way that cannot be understood such that I express being offended by the statement? With other words: Which other, preferably verb-like phrase can I use to say that I literally consider something offensive?


¹ I am slightly offended by someone belonging to the same species at me uttering this statement, but that’s a different story.

Specific Example

This question arose in discussions about Stack Exchange moderation (which I cannot post here), where different interpretations of finding sth. offensive and considering sth. offensive lead to confusion. For example, a moderator could leave a comment on a post:

I deleted the last sentence of your answer because I consider it offensive.

As moderators should be neutral and do not act from personal motivation, it is desirable for a moderator to avoid the impression that he is offended and thus personally concerned with the issue. Hence to consider sth. offensive is a suboptimal choice here. I am looking for something to replace this.

Other alternatives that don’t work

  • to find sth. offensive
    to regard sth. as offensive

    These have the same problem as considering sth. offensive, i.e., they are also used in the meaning of to be offended. I also consulted a thesaurus for possible synonyms of consider, find, and regard that could be used instead, but I found none.

  • to hold the opinion that sth. is offensive
    to arrive at the conclusion that sth. is offensive

    These express the right thing, but are comparably convoluted in my opinion.

  • to literally consider sth. offensive

    I cannot be certain that literally is understood as intended or that it is clear on what level I want to make things literal.

  • "a statement offends me" = "I hold the opinion that this statement is offensive". You can be offended by something that isn't an offense to you directly. – Mitch Jan 14 '16 at 16:42
  • @Mitch: Dictionaries [1], [2] and I disagree with you. Offended implies some relevant emotional reaction. While some people may have such a reaction to something that isn’t a direct offense to them, I and certainly many others don’t. – Wrzlprmft Jan 14 '16 at 16:57
  • Those two dictionaries agree with me. They don't specify that you are the subject of the offending statement. "That statement offends me" can be because it mentions underwear. – Mitch Jan 14 '16 at 17:56
  • 1
    I'm closevoting on the grounds that Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used. That's because OP's cited context involves an ELU mod wishing to disambiguate between whether he thinks a comment is objectively offensive, or whether he personally finds it offensive. Although I'm not a mod, I'm sure it's part of their "rules of engagement" that they should not allow personal feeling to influence how they carry out their duties. So it's not a meaningful context. – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '16 at 20:03
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    @FumbleFingers: But surely there are many essentially identical situations where the only difference is that they don't have that as part of their "rules of engagement"; I think one can extract a meaningful context without too much effort. – Brian Tung Jan 14 '16 at 21:04
4

You could distance yourself by making it an objective measurement or determination:

I deleted the last sentence of your answer because I determined it to be offensive.

3

I deleted the last sentence of your answer because it appeared to be offensive.

Avoiding mentioning yourself lifts the suspicion that you personally feel offended. At the same time, you mitigate a bit, not stating directly that the statement offends, but only that it has all the markings of an offensive statement.

2

To sligltly reword "Somebody could be offended by this statment" :

"Many will find this statement offensive".

  • Doesn't this leave a lingering implication that you don't find it offensive, as though you'd merely prefer the statement not be uttered within earshot of someone who might be offended? – deadrat Jan 14 '16 at 17:15
  • This has the same problems as Kristina Lopez’s answer in my opinion. – Wrzlprmft Jan 14 '16 at 17:35
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I think the source of the confusion here is that the difference between "finding a statement offensive" and "being offended by a statement", while real, is so microscopic as to be in practice unimportant in almost any real-life context. To take your facetious example about Atlanteans, while you claim not to be offended by the pejorative description of Atlanteans but to still "find it offensive," I would argue that you are actually offended, not by the implication that you are a person who wears their underwear on their head, but by the knowledge that you are talking to a person who would utter such foolish statements, and that an Atlantean passing by may be seriously offended by the statement. The point is that you are still somewhat offended by the statement, but to a slightly lesser extent and for slightly different reasons.

In other words, "finding something offensive" is a kind of "being offended to the second order". It still involves some measure of direct disapproval and taking offense, not just the kind of indirect, neutral, unemotional kind of disapproval that you seem to be suggesting is (or should be) the interpretation of "I find this offensive" and that you claim you are trying to express.

To summarize, if indeed you wish to express a completely indirect, neutral kind of disapproval, I completely agree that "I find this offensive" isn't going to cut it. If you want to really remove all trace of ambiguity, I don't see any alternative to just spelling things out in complete detail, as in:

In my opinion, this statement is very likely to offend a reasonable Atlantean and a fair number of other reasonable people. I should emphasize that I personally am not offended neither by its contents nor by the likelihood that it will offend others.

This addresses the "unambiguously" part of your question, but that comes at the expense of the "briefly" requirement. Honestly, given the above analysis I don't see a way to achieve both goals at the same time.

  • While I agree that there seems to be a problem with distinguishing between being offended and finding something offensive (which was indeed one of the catalysers for the question), I do not think that this is due to the relevance of cases but due to natural language development. While I am “second-order offended” by stupid racial slurs and similar, there are statements which I totally agree with and yet would consider offensive, not utter in public and remove as a moderator. – Wrzlprmft Jan 14 '16 at 22:36
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Consider using:

I find that statement distasteful

You're asserting that in your judgement the statement is in poor taste without directly saying it is offensive to you specifically.

Context may make this more or less usable though. Distaste is not fully synonymous with offence, but there is significant overlap.

  • This, in my opinion, comes right out and states that you find the statement offensive because is there really any other way to feel about something one finds personally distasteful than "offensive"? A bag of doggy doo-doo is distasteful and you'd be lying if you said you were not also offended (put-off, repulsed) if offered said bad of doggy doo-doo. :-) – Kristina Lopez Jan 14 '16 at 17:53
  • Do you consider distasteful and offensive to mean the same thing? If not, could you clarify what difference you think they have? To me there's a personal delineation between (impersonal) distaste and (personal) offence. – SuperBiasedMan Jan 14 '16 at 17:58
  • @KristinaLopez What if someone told a sexist or racist joke to a white man for example. The man may not feel offended (as the joke did not sleight his person) but would find it distasteful as it is still a joke in poor taste. – SuperBiasedMan Jan 14 '16 at 18:03

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