Language as Passive-Aggression

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At the Atlantic, Megan Garber proposes a new word to describe words and phrases that have come to mean their opposite, like “honestly,” “no offense,” and “literally”:

So here’s one proposal: Let’s call these words “smarmonyms.” Because they’re the words that exist because we English-speakers can be, at times, awkward and passive-aggressive and jerky and, yes, a little bit smarmy.


Kelly Lynn Thomas reads, writes, and sometimes sews in Pittsburgh, PA. Her creative work has appeared in Sou’wester, Thin Air Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, metazen, and others, and she received her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. She is hopelessly obsessed with Star Wars and can always be found with a large mug of tea. She also runs the very small Wild Age Press. Read more at kellylynnthomas.com. More from this author →