i.e. an old rusted car that barely starts

and the used car salesman says:

She's a little worse for wear, but [insert pitch]

acknowledging the car has negative qualities or traits, but minimizing the reality of how bad it really is.

Or a hair dresser slips leaving a bald spot shaved into your scalp

and the hairdresser says:

Have a rough spot there, but [insert platitude]

What are the salesman and hairdresser doing? Minimizing negative attention by acknowledging it mildly then moving on

Looking for a single word or phrase. If single word, it could be used as: "Have to be careful with that Jimmy, he's always [word]."

I've considered downplay, minimize, etc. And while it's close, I'm looking specifically for the acknowledgement of the negative attribute "in passing" as a way to downplay, or minimize.

  • make light of?
    – user405662
    Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 22:27
  • 1
    @user405662 Might be the best, but was thinking of strictly negative. (At least I think) make light of could be used to detract from how positive something is as well
    – TCooper
    Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 22:36
  • Spinning it, Conning us, BSing, selling snake oil. Commented Jun 14, 2021 at 22:56
  • 1
    @TCooper how formal do you need it to be? Writing jargon has "lampshading" (shorthand for "lampshade hanging") as a trick in which the author deliberately mentions a plot hole or implausibility or something that would threaten suspension of disbelief and then moves on Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 9:59
  • 1
    @JulianaKarasawaSouza Don't need it to be formal, informal, or anything at all. Just curious. I wanted a word to fit this, and couldn't find it. I don't even remember what I was looking at when trying to think of a word/phrase anymore.
    – TCooper
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


gloss over

to avoid considering something, such as an embarrassing mistake, to make it seem not important, and to quickly continue talking about something else:

  • She glossed over the company's declining profits.


M-W defines it as meaning

to treat or describe (something, such as a serious problem or error) as if it were not important

  • There are some other answers coming in, and I don't want to discourage that, but I think this fits quite well. Thanks! I'll mark as accepted in another day or so assuming nothing changes.
    – TCooper
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 20:17

The substitute word or phrase is a euphemism. Using one is, adding to the suggestions already offered, downplaying the problem when there is an attempt to partially conceal or redefine the effect of a negative fact, or softening when wanting to convey the truth without being harsh or crude.


Present in a positive light

is a good descriptor which does not directly imply anything is wrong with the situation, but does tacitly state that there is something which needs to be ameliorated.

One could also "present something in a positive light" which is not bad at all. Like if I wanted to set my friend up with my sister I could "present her in a positive light" even though there is nothing wrong with her, but I just play up her positive attributes.

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