Assume P1 is a customer and P2 is an organization representative.

P1 is trying to minimize his/her hassle by staying loyal and trying to stick with the services offered by P2's organization, but P2 is responding in an unnecessarily rude and passive-aggressive manner.

A typical conversation could be like:

P1 (dejected and decided about leaving): "I would have really preferred to stay with you guys."

P2 (faking sincerity, donning a concerned looking expression, and, speaking in a concerned sounding tone): "Yeah... me too."

P2's response could be because of cultural conditioning or even due to a personal disposition, from his/her past, to respond to someone indicating that they are upset with their attitude and are done with them.

In either case, the response is neither professional, nor genuine, nor is it deserved.

Is there a word that describes P2's response?

  • Superficially, P2 presents as servile, ingratiating, unctuous, sycophantic, fawning, toadying, oily, oleaginous, greasy, grovelling, cringing, toadyish, sycophantish, subservient, submissive, slavish, abject,... But offhand I can't think of a single-word term that would imply sarcastically giving that impression in order to be gratuitously rude. Most people would probably just say that P2 was being insolent. Jan 3, 2018 at 18:31
  • @FumbleFingers: Thank you for the suggestions. You have mentioned submissive as one. I think the behavior is more dismissive. P2's behavior is none of sycophantish, subservient, submissive and slavish. Insolent sounds more like it but is slightly strict in the definition. It doesn't capture the superficiality that is present in P2's behavior. Jan 3, 2018 at 18:42
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    Unless you are psychic, attributing fake emotions to P2 is making assumptions. Transcript says P2 says "Yeah...me too" to P1's "I would have really preferred to stay with you guys." To me, P2 is simply saying, "I wish you could have stayed with us, too." Nothing more, nothing less. Now from a sales and support perspective, maybe there were more productive things that could be used a response but I wouldn't characterize P2's words as "responding in an unnecessarily rude and passive-aggressive manner", as you stated. Maybe that's not a good example? Jan 3, 2018 at 20:46
  • @KristinaLopez: I'm not attributing fake emotion to any individual. I have only described a scenario and I'm looking for a word/phrase/idiom to describe it. (No individuals were harmed in the making of this scenario. :D ) Jan 3, 2018 at 20:50
  • I hope not! lol! Anyway, I was going off of your description, "fake sincerity". Just wondering how you know it was fake... Jan 3, 2018 at 20:52

3 Answers 3


You could say the comment was sardonic:

: disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking
• a sardonic comment

A recent example of its usage:

Every bed was occupied, but there were no patients in chairs in corridors. Staff moved quickly but calmly as they dealt with patients.

“You came at a good time,” a nurse said. “Come back later.”

The slightly sardonic remark best illustrated a sense that a calm of sorts had fallen in some of Dublin’s hospitals on Wednesday following a night which saw record numbers of patients on trolleys across the country.
The Irish Times

  • Not a bad choice of words, given the OP's example. Jan 3, 2018 at 21:49
  • +1 This is a much better fit than the popular (misuse of the) term ironic.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 4, 2018 at 1:35

After 6 days of back of the mind searching, I found that:

P2 is cold-shouldering P1.


If one person cold-shoulders another, they give them the cold-shoulder.
Even her own party considered her shrewish and nagging, and cold-shouldered her in the corridors.

singular noun
If one person gives another the cold shoulder, they behave towards them in an unfriendly way, to show them that they do not care about them or that they want them to go away.

COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Further (unnecessary) research led me to this dailymail article. It states that this phrase:

... is often mistakenly believed to have originated from the tradition of serving unwanted guests cold food.

Instead of dishing up a hot meal, they would be given a cold shoulder of lamb - a more subtle way of telling someone they had overstayed their welcome.

But the phrase almost certainly relates to the physical act of snubbing someone by turning away from them.

It first appeared in print in Sir Walter Scott's The Antiquary, written in 1816: 'Ye may mind that the Countess’s dislike did na gang farther at first than just shewing o’ the cauld shouther.'

It has no relation to food at all in this instance - and likely never did.

  • This is a good find, but it was not clear you were after a verb. This would have been more clear if you had provided a proper sample sentence of how you intended to use the word or phrase.
    – jxh
    Jan 15, 2018 at 21:10
  • @jxh: Until I found it, I didn’t know that I was looking for it. Wasn’t intending to send anyone on a wild goose chase. Jan 16, 2018 at 0:08
  • In your answer, you basically state you wanted to say: P2 is ___ P1. This is not how your question could have been interpreted, which had asked: Is there a word that describes P2's response?, which sounds like you wanted an adjective. If you provided the fill in the blank sample, it would have made your question more clear.
    – jxh
    Jan 16, 2018 at 0:23
  • @jxh: I was not sure I wanted to state the situation that way when I began looking for it. When I encountered the phrase 'cold-shoulder', I wrote the sentence using it and found it was quite close to what I was trying to express. If I could write the question in a clearer manner, I would do it. Obfuscating the question was certainly not my goal. Can I improve something now? Jan 16, 2018 at 1:27
  • I am simply stating that a better worded question would have yielded better help from the community. I am one of the few contributors who like vague questions, and I have already upvoted your answer and question.
    – jxh
    Jan 16, 2018 at 6:38

Most definitely spiteful:

adjective showing or caused by malice. "the teachers made spiteful little jokes about me" synonyms: malicious, malevolent, evil-intentioned, vindictive, vengeful, malign, mean, nasty, hurtful, mischievous, wounding, cruel, unkind...

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