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Is there a more formal and POLITE way of saying "I'm not going to kiss your ass"?

I got suspended from work because I used this expression. My coworkers and I were having a conversation with our boss, we were discussing a lot of topics unrelated to work. Then biology came up, and my boss was being extremely ignorant and talking about stuff he knew nothing about, and everyone in the room was agreeing with everything he had to say. So I said something like "You know what, I'm not kissing your ass Mr. M. I completely disagree with what you're saying right now. You're talking nonsense."

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    What do you mean by a "more polite" way? Do you mean a similar expression that doesn't contain an expletive? Do you mean words polite enough to say to your boss?
    – gotube
    Oct 1 at 23:02
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    @VictorB. The context matters. I wouldn't say, "lick your boots" to my boss, even though it's clearly a more polite expression than "kiss your ass". Anyway, the OP can tell me themselves
    – gotube
    Oct 2 at 0:09
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    @gotube disagree that one is "clearly more polite" than the other universally. "Kiss my ass" has become so colloquial that it's lost some of its oomf (and I've heard some people do this for fun), whereas "lick my boots" has that cold, hard feel of dominance and submission (which I've also heard some people do for fun). So maybe it's really a toss-up?
    – uhoh
    Oct 3 at 0:40
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    Generally, I remove one of my gloves, slap them across the face with it, and shout, "J'ACCUSE!". What it may lack in being at all appropriate is almost always compensated for by its glorious surfeit of formality.
    – John Smith
    Oct 3 at 4:54
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    lol, so you want an a** kissing way of saying I'm not going to kiss your a**?
    – mcalex
    Oct 4 at 5:35

10 Answers 10

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The formal and polite way of saying a vulgar expression is usually to avoid using any expression and just use regular words.

So, depending on the context of what the other person is expecting from you, one of these might work:

"I'm not going to blindly agree with everything you say."

"I'm not going to emulate you."

"I'm going make my own decisions on how to proceed."

"I'm not going to flatter you."

"I'll speak in favour of whatever course of action I think is best, which won't always be the one you support."

In short, speak directly to how you are not going to fulfill that person's expectations, or what you perceive are that person's expectations.

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    +1. I wish the question had more context/information/clarity. What OP is asking for seems to have many different possibilities in different contexts. I think the option you give in your answer are very helpful. But I wonder what you mean by "to avoid using any expression".
    – Eddie Kal
    Oct 1 at 23:35
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    @EddieKal I mean that for most vulgar expressions, there isn't an equivalent polite expression. What are polite and formal equivalent expressions for "Fuck off" or "What a piece of shit" or whatever? Well, there's "piss off" or "piece of crap", but those are just tame versions of still quite informal expressions. True formal and polite equivalents might be, "Please stop bothering me" and "This is such poor quality."
    – gotube
    Oct 1 at 23:42
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    @EddieKal I'm sorry. I should've been clearer. I got suspended from work because I used this expression. My coworkers and I were having a conversation with our boss, we were discussing a lot of topics unrelated to work. Then biology came up, and my boss was being extremely ignorant and talking about stuff he knew nothing about, and everyone in the room was agreeing with everything he had to say. So I said something like "You know what, I'm not licking your ass Mr. M. I completely disagree with what you're saying right now. You're talking nonsense."
    – studentxxy
    Oct 2 at 11:35
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    Getting OT for this site but you might ask on Workplace SE: depending on what "biology" entailed, there may have been aspects that made the topic of the conversation of hostile work environment, implying gender based discrimination, ableism, unwillingness to accommodate medical needs, etc. If so, figuring out how you're going to deal with that in the future might be a good idea. Oct 2 at 19:42
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    @studentxxy Using fanciful words doesn't really make it less insulting. Your problem here isn't the word "ass", it's that you're implying everybody in the room/company is a spineless kiss-ass, and that the boss is pompous ignorant looking for validation. Or at least it's one possible interpretation that I could see being suspension-worthy. How to express your disagreement in a civil manner would be a question for Workplace or IPS SE, and there are probably answers there that can help you with that, assuming that's your ultimate goal. Oct 4 at 12:54
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Some non-slang words which have similar meaning to boot-licking or a**-kissing are:

  • ingratiate (verb) or ingratiating (adjective)
  • obsequious (adjective)

So, for example, you could have said:

I disagree with you and my obsequious colleagues ...

Most of them would probably not even know the word, which would have added an extra layer to your insult.

Or perhaps this would have been kinder to your colleagues, by simply saying that you will "dare" to do something which they would not:

I will dare to disagree with you ...

But even if you think your boss is ignorant and your colleagues obsequious, what's to be gained by expressing that at all? Just engage in the discussion rationally and calmly, and don't make it personal.

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"To lick your boots", "to bootlick/kowtow to you", "to fawn over you" - to me, these don't sound that rude.

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    They don't sound formal though, which is part of the question
    – gotube
    Oct 1 at 23:13
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    None of these are either formal nor polite. Speaking of "bootlicking" is, in particular, rather rude, at least in standard American English. I would never send an email like this to a work colleague or anyone else in a vaguely professional setting, and I would be floored if I got such an email in a similar setting.
    – Cody Gray
    Oct 2 at 9:42
  • >The [two thousand year old] word "kowtow" came into English in the early 19th century to describe the bow itself, but its meaning soon shifted to describe any abject submission or groveling.
    – Mazura
    Oct 5 at 2:44
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Given added information from the OP in a comment, a more workplace-acceptable statement would be:

I respectfully disagree with your opinion.

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If you want to make your dissent with a superior clear, and make clear that you are doing it despite of your difference in rank, you can start your statement with "With all due respect — ... "

The linked question and answers seem to agree that the term is "problematic" and ambiguous: How much respect then is "due", after all? Perhaps not that much.

I think that description fits your use case near-perfectly: You want to set yourself apart from your colleagues by making clear that you are not a sycophant but stand up for what you think is right, without being outright insulting or using offensive language. Done.

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    In my experience, this is the most common / acceptable way to disagree with someone who is in a superior position. "Respectfully" also works - "Respectfully, Mr. M, that just isn't accurate..." And the subtext is pretty well understood to mean "you're wrong, but I recognize that I'm not in a position to just bluntly say so."
    – Caledon
    Oct 4 at 14:59
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    This is my favo(u)rite, as inwardly I know that "all" respect that is due is "none" :-) Oct 4 at 21:04
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I'm afraid I can't agree with you, sir.

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It's tough to know exactly what you're after without more detail, but, "I must respectfully decline" is generally a good, simple, polite-but-firm way of absolutely refusing to do something.

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I am not in the habit of lowering my standards to agree with you on this subject.

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"I am not going there." tends to work (as well as may be expected, of course) for deflecting calls to sycophancy.

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In your sentence:

"You know what, I'm not kissing your ass Mr. M. I completely disagree with what you're saying right now. You're talking nonsense."

The phrase "kissing your ass" here means avoiding giving difficult feedback because of the relationship you have with person who would be on the receiving end. Like many vulgar phrases, "kissing your ass" can mean a lot of different things in different contexts, but that's the meaning it has here.

An alternative, non-vulgar phrase in that works very well in the same context is "sugarcoat". Sugarcoating your feedback would be to make it seem like you're agreeing even when you really disagree. Saying you won't sugar coat your feedback might imply you're going to be more honest, even if that's uncomfortable for the recipient.

So I'd suggest:

"You know what, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, Mr. M. I completely disagree with what you're saying right now. You're talking nonsense."

This won't necessarily protect you from getting in trouble with your boss, but with this kind of phrasing, at least you'll be getting in trouble for the content of the opinions you give, not for their presentation.

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