By Curtis Honeycutt
I have a new favorite word and, no, it’s not “hygge.” Similar to “hygge,” though, this word looks like you dropped a random handful of Scrabble letters onto the gameboard in an attempt to convince your friend that it’s a real word. My new favorite word is “phrop.”
Coined by Sir Arnold Lunn in the late 1940s, “phrop” was Lunn’s entry in a made-up word competition in The New Statesman, according to Philip Howard in his 1984 book The State of Language. It seems Sir Arnold created the word “phrop” as a combination of the words “phrase” and “opposite.”
When you break down this idea, you get a phrase that means the opposite of what it actually means. A classic example of this comes from Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy. At the end of a date where you don’t want to see that person ever again, Seinfeld quips, “What do you say?” So he goes with, “Take care now.” The reason, he states, is because “I’m not going to be taking care of you. So you should take care of yourself now.”
Phrops appear in social settings to put a misleading face on a less-than-polite statement. Notice that when someone starts a sentence with, “With all due respect,” they proceed to tee off on the other person’s position or opinion. “With all due respect” gets used as a license to tear the other person apart. I give “with all due respect” mad phrops.
The “humblebrag” is a great example of a modern-day phrop. Humblebrags are the epitome of false humility, and they often show up on social media feeds. To avoid using a real example, I’ll make one up. Suppose you see a friend post something like this: “I am SO tired after working at the soup kitchen all day. My Jimmy Choo’s are toast after standing up all day … but it feels great knowing I could shine my light.” This is annoying on many levels; not only did your “friend” brag about how much she volunteered, but she did it while wearing incredibly expensive shoes. That one’s a real mic-phrop moment.
How can you avoid dropping a casual phrop while speaking with your closest frenemy? Phrops are an easy way to passively-aggressively drop a “sick burn” on someone. My advice? Pick one thing about your “friend” that you can genuinely compliment (even if it is her ringtone). Say it, mean it, and then get out of there before you accidentally say, “I’ll call you.”
—Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at curtishoneycutt.com.