Why do we compliment things instead of people?

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,798
"I love your _______, so pretty"
Fill in the blank with:
  • Shoes - that's ok for anyone to say
  • Ear rings, necklace, other jewelry - again, ok for just about anyone to say.
  • Shirt - usually ok for anyone to say, unless it's a provocative low cut shirt, and the sender is a man and the receiver is a woman, and that man is one whose attention the woman did not want.
  • Pants - ok for a woman to say to a woman but man to woman is same case as above, but more risky.
  • Nails - ok for anyone to say
  • Haircut - ok for anyone to say
"Sweet _______, dude. I wish I had one/some."
Fill in the blank with:

  • Shoes - ok, cool
  • Jacket - cool
  • Haircut - kinda weird, but ok
  • Shirt- ok
But when we start filling in those blanks with eyes, teeth, physique, complexion, skin tone, or most any other intrinsic parameter of the person themselves, we are more likely to get "I have a boyfriend" or "sorry bud, I don't swing that way." Those kind of compliments are more personal, and usually reserved for people in relationships to make to each other. Why?

Why is it more ok to compliment things people purchased to adorn themselves with, than it is to compliment the actual people themselves; what they were born with or worked hard for (like muscle tone). Is there some quiet endorsement of consumerism in this?

I understand why compliments from one sex to the other can be interpreted as (and often are) solicitations of sexual interest, but shouldn't that apply across the board? Why is "you have beautiful eyes" more salacious than "you have a beautiful hat?" Is this merely tradition and propriety or do we have some biologically coded prerogative to stir our own loins with compliments on our chiseled jaw lines?
 
Last edited:

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,315
"I love your _______, so pretty"
Fill in the blank with:
  • Shoes - that's ok for anyone to say
  • Ear rings, necklace, other jewelry - again, ok for just about anyone to say.
  • Shirt - usually ok for anyone to say, unless it's a provocative low cut shirt, and the sender is a man and the receiver is a woman, and that man is one whose attention the woman did not want.
  • Pants - ok for a woman to say to a woman but man to woman is same case as above, but more risky.
  • Nails - ok for anyone to say
  • Haircut - ok for anyone to say
"Sweet _______, dude. I wish I had one/some."
Fill in the blank with:

  • Shoes - ok, cool
  • Jacket - cool
  • Haircut - kinda weird, but ok
  • Shirt- ok
But when we start filling in those blanks with eyes, teeth, physique, complexion, skin tone, or most any other intrinsic parameter of the person themselves, we are more likely to get "I have a boyfriend" or "sorry bud, I don't swing that way." Those kind of compliments are more personal, and usually reserved for people in relationships to make to each other. Why?

Why is it more ok to compliment things people purchased to adorn themselves with, than it is to compliment what they were born with or worked hard for (like muscle tone). Is there some quiet endorsement of consumerism in this?

I understand why compliments from one sex to the other can be interpreted as (and often are) solicitations of sexual interest, but shouldn't that apply across the board? Why is "you have beautiful eyes" more salacious than "you have a beautiful hat?" Is this merely tradition and propriety or do we have some biologically coded prerogative to stir our own loins with compliments on our chiseled jaw lines?
Because things don't have feelings. You just don't know a 'X' will react to a personal reference to some aspect of them, personally.
 
Last edited:

MikeA

Joined Jan 20, 2013
362
Why is "you have beautiful eyes" more salacious than "you have a beautiful hat?" Is this merely tradition and propriety or do we have some biologically coded prerogative to stir our own loins with compliments on our chiseled jaw lines?
I don't think it's either tradition or biological. When the comment is between people that are not complete strangers, and that comment is about something new, it is much more plausible that the comment does not carry any connotation beyond noting the change.

Whereas with physical characteristics, it is much less plausible that the commenter has not noticed it before, thus the plausibility of no connotation is much less.

With strangers, when the comment is about objects, the same plausibility test applies. If someone says I love your shirt, it is entirely plausible that they are contemplating owning the same object, and there is nothing else implied. But if someone says I love your eyes, that is much less actionable. You can't go and buy eyes, for example. So the probability of an ulterior motive behind the comment is much higher.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,798
I don't think it's either tradition or biological. When the comment is between people that are not complete strangers, and that comment is about something new, it is much more plausible that the comment does not carry any connotation beyond noting the change.

Whereas with physical characteristics, it is much less plausible that the commenter has not noticed it before, thus the plausibility of no connotation is much less.

With strangers, when the comment is about objects, the same plausibility test applies. If someone says I love your shirt, it is entirely plausible that they are contemplating owning the same object, and there is nothing else implied. But if someone says I love your eyes, that is much less actionable. You can't go and buy eyes, for example. So the probability of an ulterior motive behind the comment is much higher.
Well that's pretty obvious now that you've pointed it out. :p seriously though, I should have thought of that. Thanks.
 

LowQCab

Joined Nov 6, 2012
4,078
What's the actual problem ?????
Fourth-Wave-Feminism, Political-Correctness,
and a general increase in Insanity caused by "Group-Think" and "Social-Media" !!!
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nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
13,315
What's the actual problem ?????
Fourth-Wave-Feminism, Political-Correctness,
and a general increase in Insanity caused by "Group-Think" and "Social-Media" !!!
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In this case I don't think so. It was pretty much the same when I was a wee lad in Texas.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,003
I am often told I have “beautiful blue eyes.” but in a way, that is the same thing, it is the color, which I guess makes it less personal than the eyes themselves.
 

LowQCab

Joined Nov 6, 2012
4,078
In this case I don't think so. It was pretty much the same when I was a wee lad in Texas.
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Please watch the Movie before reading this ..........

Unfortunately ..........
1967 does not necessarily work in the 2020's.
This short movie also is very much "Military-centric", and has only limited Civilian application.
As far as Civilian-application goes,
"knowing" good-manners,
and whether or not they should be demonstrated in a particular situation,
is an advanced "fine-Art" which requires intelligence, experience, and "Ethics", (as opposed to "Morals" ).
( Ethics is what YOU KNOW is right or wrong, Morals are what "society" says is right or wrong, or "proper" )

Lack of minimal "Social-Manners" is simply a quick way of identifying stupid or dangerous people,
then, treating others as You would like to be treated is the only truly important "rule".

Women quickly become "disinterested" in "nice-guys", and then the trouble starts.
Many people will be "offended" by this statement,
but that's only because they have not actually extensively studied how people work,
and Women are particularly complex,
as they "normally" operate more on Emotions and "Feelings", rather than Logic.

After the "First-Date-best-behavior" niceties and manners have been adequately demonstrated,
Women are looking for a Man that is driven, highly-productive, and ALWAYS goes after what he wants,
and if this is not regularly demonstrated for all to see,
she will quickly "loose-interest" and become "dissatisfied",
( You fill-in the blanks as to the variety subjects and situations that that might entail ).
After these criterion are met,
You can pretty much get away with murder, and she won't even bat an Eye, or say a single word.
( this is roughly / vaguely equivalent to being a "Bad-Boy" rather than a "Nice-Guy" )

Welcome to the "Bizarre-O-World" of what I like to call "Girl-Logic".

Now if you're in the Military, your behavior had better conform to the letter of the Code,
or You could wind-up in a very undesirable situation, or worse.
And, of course, the Military takes a dim view of You upsetting some "Karen" who wants to
press-charges for not treating her as a Princess.
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Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
9,173
tl;dr: complementing possessions that are rare, costly, or stylish is a reflection of a societal assumption that these things confer merit on their owner and so elevate social “status”—this makes them ”compliments”. They are ”safe” compliments because they avoid the discomfort we also feel when someone with whom we are not already intimate “notices” our bodies about which we in America (and other places) are—by and large—uncomfortable.

These comments can legitimately be made to a person about whom we have no intention of forming an intimate connection, as well as an entrée to forming one. It is ”safe” for both parties. Sometimes they can be combined, “that shirt looks great on you” is different from “that’s a great shirt”, the former moving in the direction of intimacy by referring to the other’s body and the latter only the shirt.

In any case, “you have great legs” should mean the same thing as “you have such nice teeth”—yet if a man says each of these to a women who is a functional stranger, or not an intimate, they carry two very different semantic payloads. Mentioning “great legs” has connotations teeth just don’t share.

This sort of thing is very cultural, like other common interactions. For example it is completely normal for people in the US to ask about what someone does “for a living“ while in some other places that would seem quite gauche.

While I certainly grew up steeped in mainstream American culture, as time went on I found some things about what is “normal” made me uncomfortable. One of those things is complementing possessions that might be seen as status symbols.

I have a nice car, and I have it for myself and family—not for display. It’s been a great vehicle for family road trips and the like, and it is a pleasure to drive. The other day, a young man in a parking lot said “I love you car” as I was loading up my groceries. I said, “thank you” but it was unsettling.

I don’t think the car is a merit of mine. I didn’t design it, build it, or otherwise participate in making it a car he loves. I just bought it—and for me the fact that I could afford it (which the young man almost certainly could not) was very largely a matter of fortune, that is, luck.

It is interesting we call a large amount of money or goods “a fortune” and refer to the less well off as ”less fortunate” yet we don’t really acknowledge the role of circumstance and, well, luck in prosperity. While there are surely isolated cases that buck the trend, the overwhelming number of people have their life’s arc determined by the postal code* they are born into.

I am no billionaire, but as far as I am concerned, I won the birth lottery. My family was solidly in the upward-mobile lower middle class having left the artisan class only a generation before my arrival. I wasn’t born into a community of wealth, but I was not typical concerning my relationship to society’s resources.

The genetic-genomic advantages I inherited made it possible for me to operate in the interstices and move sideways avoiding the up and down that would have sealed my fate (for the worse). But still, I was born to parents, at a time, and in a place where all of this was possible, we were prosperous enough for me to do reasonably well.

So, when someone says, ”I love your car” I tend to cringe—and while when I am not taken by surprise, I can respond with something like “I do too! It’s a great car” rather than the uncomfortable “thank you” as if it is a complement to me, rather than to the many people who made it possible.

Note, if the comment was “I love that car“ or ”I love that <make/model>” it might be different. The fact that it is mine, “I love your car“ being included is what sets things off. And this is true for many things when they are unusually rare, expensive, or otherwise generally unobtainable and there is a socially medicated underlying and generally invisible assumption that ”ownership” confers the (presumed) merit of the thing on the owner, and increases “status”.

While I know it is not at all a popular opinion in many quarters, I don’t believe that wealth is an indication of merit as a human being, even when the person “worked hard” to obtain it. Without the concomitant luck, a wealthy person—who worked hard—wouldn’t have the opportunities to make that hard work effective, nor even the ability to work hard in the first place.

I know many people who struggle to make ends meet with both spouses working multiple part time jobs or in some side hustle to make ends meet. I can see them fall victim to the fact that things are generally structured so that people with an IQ of ~115-120 pay people with an IQ of ~130+ to produce schemes to harvest the labor and money of people with IQs of <~110.

Statistically, people with IQs of <110 simply can’t make it economically and will be in debt their entire lives, often paying for things like entertainment and cheaply made but attractive consumer goods (e.g.: huge flat screen TVs, (used and overpriced) cars and trucks, etc.) purchased on credit, long after those things are only memories.

So they can work very hard, and be honest as the day is long, and yet never find themselves out from under the burden of consumerism and things that aren’t a matter of merit or morality but of where, when, and to whom they were born. I will quickly add that genuine Horatio Alger stories do exist. Some people buck the trend, but like the winners of the lottery posing with the oversized check, they are used to lie.

From a statistical standpoint it is quite legitimate to say “nobody wins the big bucks lotteries”. Pointing to the photo of the smiling recipient with the huge check isn’t proof against this. That you are far more likely to be struck by lightning than win, that you are many, many times more likely to die in your car on the way to buy the ticket and that we really don’t consider these things possible enough to change our behavior makes the point: you will not win the lottery, and buying more than one ticket doesn’t make any practical difference in these odds.

This may have seemed very discursive, and I couldn’t blame you for thinking so—but I assure you it was not only a response to the TS’ post, it has a solid logic and foundation that simply defies any brief exposition. There are several books worth of interlocking facts, concepts, and philosophical investigations behind and beneath this.

*this is shorthand for time, place, and family—and is meant also to account for the resources like schooling and other opportunities that are part of where, when, and to whom you are born.
 

LowQCab

Joined Nov 6, 2012
4,078
""................. So, when someone says, ”I love your car” I tend to cringe—and while when I am not taken by surprise, I can respond with something like “I do too! ................"" It’s a lot of fun.
Is exactly how I respond !!!

I've put a serious amount of work into my Truck,
few parts are original, so that puts a slightly different twist on this.
I chalk-it-up to an aspiring teenager,
who has no clue as to how much work was involved, but it sure looks cool.
But now with my Peers, that's a different situation, and an invitation to a possible friendship,
and if a Women should ever make such a comment, it would have a substantially different meaning.
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"" ............. Statistically, people with IQs of <110 simply can’t make it economically ............... ""
I consider this to be the greatest tragedy known to man.
And, people with an IQ below ~80 are so bad-off that
they are actually a serious liability, and sometimes even a danger, to everyone else.
It's too bad that the excellent Movie "Forrest Gump" can't possibly be real in any way,
he would have never even been accepted into the Military, much less come out a Hero.
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gmc-sonoma gif .gif
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
9,003
""................. So, when someone says, ”I love your car” I tend to cringe—and while when I am not taken by surprise, I can respond with something like “I do too! ................"" It’s a lot of fun.
Wow, something I can agree with.

I usually get a comment more like “great car”. And my response is something like “Yeah, I really like it.”

One comment that really threw me was when the lovely wife Morticia and I were getting out of the car at a rest stop and a young man said “You two are so cute in that car”. I still don’t know quite what to make of that.
 

Lightium

Joined Jun 6, 2012
169
I think we compliment things instead of people because for some and others one would expect a compliment in return, but self reflection and self doubt come into play... (I have something important to say here, but sometimes I find it hard to articulate my thoughts.)
 
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