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My friend presented his research topic in front of my professor. He was asked a question about it, but he had difficulty in answering it and was upset for a while. Then my professor (translated):

"Whenever I see a researcher who's upset with a question, I think I could spit on him. Well, I'm not talking about you."

Needless to say that he was actually talking about my friend.

In my country one rarely talks about spitting on somebody. He has some work experience in North America, which he always boasts, so I believe his usage of the phrase is influenced in that in North America. While I know the phrase expresses some degree of dishonor, I have no idea how rude it actually is to "spit" on somebody.

If spitting on somebody is what people casually talk about in North America, probably I shouldn't take my experience seriously. If the phrase indicates strong dishonor, well, I don't know.

So what degree of dishonor does the phrase signify?

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    spit at/on/in someone shows anger and lack of respect -no matter who spoke where. It shows an insult as well and it goes true in any case.
    – Maulik V
    Feb 10 '14 at 13:04
  • It's not wrong to post this here but this would be a great question for the Etiquette proposal as well if it makes it out of beta :) Feb 10 '14 at 13:25
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    It's not normal or a good idea to talk of spitting on someone, in England or the rest of the UK. It's likely to start a confrontation with someone. Actually doing it would probably result in a fight and police getting involved. It would be best to avoid saying this to anyone.
    – Tristan
    Feb 10 '14 at 14:22
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Sometimes expressions like this will be uttered as a hypothetical, without any underlying desire or intent to complete the act. For example, I found this post on a JustMommies Discussion Board:

lol, my DH was at the grocery store and tells me that they have one of my favorite drinks... They stopped selling it here years ago & I really miss it. I was so excited when he said they had it and I said get me some! Then he says he was just kidding. I was bummed...I should just smack him. I said that's not nice to do to a pregnant women!

Although domestic violence is a topic often taken very seriously, I don't think that's how the above comment was intended. Though the words might cross some lines, I think they were meant to be lighthearted, rather than threatening.

That said, such over-the-top remarks, like "I could just spit on him," can be construed as extremely insensitive. Even if it's only meant in jest, it's probably best to avoid talking that way.

I'm not defending the remark; there is certainly a degree of rudeness in it. That said, I'm guessing that the statement you heard was probably not meant to sound as "dishonorable" as you fear it might be.

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