The politics of being insulted the uses of hurt feelings in Israeli public discourse

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Scholars of politeness admit that being insulted may be the result of the hearer's assumptions about the other's behavior and may not necessarily relate to the actual words or intentions of the speaker. Thus, it is surprising to find only a few accounts of how people are doing “being insulted” or of how, in public discourse, responses to insults are strategically employed for various ends. In this paper, I analyze the meta-pragmatics of “hurt feelings” in order to understand how speakers do things with emotions and the role of hurt feelings in political democratic discourse. By examining instances in which public figures have stated their feelings of insult in Israeli public discourse (1997-2012), I show both how hurt feelings are strategically employed to protest against politically unacceptable acts, and how public actors sometimes explicitly refuse to be insulted, shifting the meaning of what is perceived as an insult by side-participants into a compliment. I conclude by discussing the consequences of manifesting hurt feelings in political discourse.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)107-127
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Language Aggression and Conflict
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Benjamins Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved.


  • Aggressiveness
  • Emotions
  • Impoliteness
  • Insults
  • Perlocutions
  • Political discourse


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