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Came across the following sentence in an online article:

Her offending remarks are usually flippant and coarse, f-word-driven, her subsequent apology statement couched in the starched jargon of socially conscious contrition.

Why is "offending" used here instead of "offensive"?

  • To my (BrE) ear, the cited example isn't at all idiomatically "natural". Per this NGram chart, offensive remarks is at least 10 times more common than offending remarks. Imho, the relatively few contexts where the latter form would actually be preferred are "specific" (The judge ruled that the offending remarks be stricken from the record). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 29 '18 at 14:49
  • (The cited context is "generic" - talking about what any and all of such remarks are usually like, which to my mind is the main reason that only offensive really works there.) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 29 '18 at 14:52
  • @FumbleFingers, In the context of the article itself, I think the word makes sense. It's mentioning remarks that specifically offended certain people, not remarks that were offensive in nature. – ScottM Jun 29 '18 at 14:53
  • @ScottM: We must agree to differ. I just skimmed the containing article, and it looks to me as if the writer is going out of (her?) way to use high-falutin' vocabulary and syntax. And I'm guessing that's not actually her natural register, so it leads to distraction and the occasional slip-up. In the context of my previous comment, it might be worth noting that Google Books has a handful of hits for The offensive remarks are usually..., but none at all for The offending remarks are usually... – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 29 '18 at 15:02
  • @FumbleFingers, I do agree that snarky publications such as Vanity Fair are not the best references for people trying to learn the language. – ScottM Jun 29 '18 at 15:06
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Don't think of it as an adjective, but more like a verb. It is a verb that is being used like an adjective. In this case, "her offending remarks" means, "her remarks which offend". They are the remarks that offend people.

This almost means the same thing as "offensive remarks", but there's a small difference: If you make an offensive remark, that just means that the nature of the remark is offensive, but it doesn't mean anybody actually got offended. If you make an offending remark, that does mean that the remark offended somebody.

Here's another thing though about that sentence, and it's kind of subtle: There are two kinds of "remarks" or "statements" that it's talking about. The first kind is the "offending remarks". The second kind is the "subsequent apology statement".

By mentioning these two kinds of "remarks", "statements", or whatever you want to call them, the author is trying to say something about her: The author is saying that she will say something mean, then she will apologize about it, and she keeps doing this over and over. The author is trying to show a contrast here: First the mean things she says, then the apology she gives later. (It doesn't sound like the author thinks her apologies are genuine.)

Why does she apologize? It is because her remarks weren't just offensive; they actually did offend somebody (according to the author).

  • I think the interpretation of the author's intent should be removed. It's an opinion, and it isn't really relevant to the question. Without that, this would be a very good answer. – ScottM Jun 29 '18 at 14:36
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A definition for offending is to be displeasing. It's possible that it means to say "Her displeasing remarks". Basically, the remarks she made, the ones that were offending (displeasing), are usually flippant and coarse. It's also possible it's a mistake, but unlikely.

  • The quoted language is heavily ideological in tone. "Offending" may be sarcastic and sneering at the idea that "offensive" is anything causing anyone to be offended, an idea that ultimately does mean that all expression can be labeled offensive because it may offend someone. But the real clue that the rhetoric is ideologically driven is "the starched language of social" consciousness. I know what that means and have some sympathy with the emotions behind that meaning, but the whole sentence is too ideologically overwrought to be a guide to normal English. EDIT: It's Vanity Fair, vapid to the n – Jeff Morrow Mar 7 '18 at 3:46
  • I agree. A horrible example to be learning English from. – Element115 Mar 7 '18 at 3:48
  • @JeffMorrow I actually wanted to ask in a separate question what starched means in "the starched jargon". I can't find a definition that fits the context. – Eddie Kal Mar 7 '18 at 3:53
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    As I said, this is from Vanity Fair. Writers on sports and "celebrities" and other trivialities must make their writing interesting by odd locutions, etc. "Starched" is used as a metaphor to indicate rigid or artificial because starched cloth does not hang or bend naturally. What I think is meant here is that the language of the apology appears insincere because it is formulaic virtue signaling, not anything that appears like genuine recognition of fault. – Jeff Morrow Mar 7 '18 at 4:10

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