Mai Mislang sucks? Think of Frank H’s Hierarchy of Insults

mai mislang MANILA - Talk is cheap. A million words have been said against Assistant Secretary Carmen “Mai” Mislang who tweeted about the wine that the Vietnamese hosts served Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and his entourage: “The wine sucks.” Should she have more clearly joked about it instead and said something like, “I didn’t enjoy the wine, neither did our Vietnamese hosts. Fair enough!”

Mai wrote the words that suck on Twitter and, on being served wine that sucks, should I say to her? “Serves you right!”

I don’t do Twitter, and I don’t care. Twitter encourages you to do one-liners that you don’t have to think about - and that’s what happened to Mai. A tweet is easy to misunderstand because it stands out, out of context. Now she has to think about it in context 24/7.

Mai had written other Vietnamese tweets, and about them, James Cordova says ( “There was a sense of entitlement, even arrogance, in Mislang’s messages that rubbed people the wrong way.” James, I don’t think so, no.Sori, walang pogi dito” and “Crossing the speedy motorcycle-laden streets of Hanoi is one of the easiest ways to die” (Tess Bedico, 30 October 2010, Mai is joking, for God’s sake.

And James says, “In the final analysis, Mislang did not offend the Vietnamese - she offended Filipinos.” The over-sensitive Filipinos, yes, James.

Conrado de Quiros calls Mislang’s tweets “tasteless” (cited in Some people don’t have a sense of humor, I see.

F Sionil Jose writes, “I am appalled at the stupidity of this Malacañang functionary who insulted her Hanoi hosts last fortnight by tweeting ‘the wine sucks!’” Manong, watch your blood pressure.

They are on a state visit; Noynoy is guest of Nguyen Minh Triet at the Banquet Hall of the Government Guesthouse (Delon Porcalla, 30 October 2010, Mai being a speechwriter is with the President, and they are served red and white wines. And the wine sucks. Really.

While I don’t admire him personally, and I don’t subscribe to his politics, I admire Senator Gringo Honasan for calling a spade a spade, referring to the hullabaloo about Mislang’s comments “over-reaction” (Maila Ager, 02 November 2010, Gringo says, “It’s an impression of a young lady. Hindi na dapat palakihin ito.” We shouldn’t be making it bigger than that.

Of course the Vietnamese are more gentlemen than some of our Filipino gentlemen and are not offended by the tweet, “The wine sucks.” Mai does not tweet, “The wine is inferior” because that would be an insult; she would be clearly rating the wine 2 out of 5 stars. “The wine sucks” is relative, ambiguous - what sucks to her may not suck to you.

“Sucks” is rather a mild statement; “the wine sucks” means “it’s a disappointment” and nothing more than that. If you feel offended by the statement “the wine sucks,” I say your English sucks. Don’t you notice? Carmen “Mai” Mislang, UP graduate, PhD, cum laude, knows her English idiom. You should too.

It’s an insult if you say, “The wine sucks. I’d rather have a beer.” And definitely if you say, “The wine sucks and the wafers are dry” and you are referring to the wine and the bread coming off the altar during a celebration of a Roman Catholic mass.

It’s not an insult if you say, “The wine sucks and the conversation is getting nowhere.” You’re just being funny. Or, “The wine sucked ... and now I have this worst hangover in years.” You’re joking.

“The wine sucks,” Mai Mislang tweets. She is referring to the red wine. “The white’s fine,” she tweets again ( So, she’s not trying to damn the wines served as a whole, or the reception in general. It’s an innocent remark as far as I’m concerned. It’s like if I say, “Your idiom sucks” and it’s just a statement of fact, no offense meant. If at all, she insults the wine.

“The wine sucks” is a polite way of saying the wine is unacceptable; and no, it doesn’t really sound offensive. It is said offhand, not in a moment of hate or intense displeasure. Some people are just making a mountain out of a molehill.

It would really have been offensive if Mai Mislang said, “8 things that suck about the wine they served at the Vietnamese Guesthouse,” and then she proceeded to enumerate 10 of them!

“C++ sucks.” I don’t like that programming language myself, but saying that is not that offensive, is it? “Tagalog sucks,” say I, an Ilocano. That’s not as unpleasant to hear as if I say, “Tagalog stinks.” To say, “’Batman Begins’ sucks” is not like you’re saying, “The whole idea of Batman sucks.” “Nothing sucks like that red wine last night.” That would really have been insulting.

To clear the air of pollution by language, I think that it’s time for the diplomats and non-diplomats like you to learn what I have just invented for a happy wine-drinking session on any occasion; I call it The Hierarchy of Insults, and it’s applicable especially when you’re drinking red wine in a group - or in a foreign country – especially with people who speak English that leaves much to be desired.

Frank H’s Hierarchy of Insults goes like this, from the lowest to the highest level: Annoyance > Put-Down > Insult > Outrage > Attack. Here’s the legend of those 5 levels of insults:

Annoyance - You’re not happy with the wine; you want to say something to disturb the equanimity of your host but you don’t really want to say what you mean. You say something like, “The wine sucks.” You can say it in a whisper, as in a tweet. Nobody understands it really; it’s an American slang, and who cares about American?

Put-Down - You’re annoyed enough because you think the wine is lower in quality than you have expected, so you say something like, “The wine stinks.” Somebody is bound to understand or check with someone who knows what you mean by such a remark. You really mean what you say.

Insult - Your temperature is rising and you can’t mince words anymore. You say something like, “The wine is bad.” You emphasize the last word. Everybody understands a voice that is loud.

Outrage - You’re really angry. You say something like, “The wine is terrible!” You not only emphasize the last word, you also scream it. Everybody trembles at your roar.

Attack - You’re mad with rage, but you don’t say anything - you simply vomit on the wine.

The drink’s on me. Red wine, anyone?

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