I don’t know if it is my English heritage, but sometimes I feel that saying something is “not bad” is sincerely one of the best compliments in the world. Perhaps due to (or because of) our surfeit of pessimism, or maybe our propensity for understatement, I really believe that this half-negative statement can be a truly unique and heartwarming expression of admiration. In fact, when coupled with a knowing smile and a gentle nod, it denotes a level of happiness and contentment with something that is unparalleled. More expressive, even, than an internet of dog or cat memes.
This is especially true when something surpasses our expectations. Take the London Olympics in 2012, for example. So surprised were the English people of its success that, I swear, for the duration of the event and several weeks after, the whole country wandered around in a mesmeric stupor. People could be seen bumping into each other and saying in wonderment: “that wasn’t too bad, was it?” To which would come the even more emphatic, half-whispered reply: “No. Not bad at all!”
Now, I’m not saying that I was expecting the All Saints Estate Shiraz to be bad. But I found when I was drinking it I was bestowing it with all of the negatively-phrased compliments I could dig out of my arsenal.
Imagine me talking to my partner if you will: “That’s not as heavy as I was expecting for a Rutherglen Shiraz… There’s hardly any tannin there too… And it’s not very acidic… No sourness… Not too much pepper… Not too alcoholic… Not too juicy… Not too savoury… In fact… It’s not too anything!”
And then I followed it up with the ultimate compliment. One you will now fully understand the gravity of. I looked at the red wine swilling about in my glass and said to myself with a nod and a grin: “Yeah, this wine is not bad. Not bad at all.”
Cognitive Bias: Glass totally full