What is a positive way to describe a "tool" (as in slang for a person, see UrbanDictionary.com)

I don’t have much information about a certain person who I have to figure out how to get along with (maybe even befriend or partner with his organization). My (generally wise) friend said he sounds like a “tool” from what I told him. I’ve heard the term but didn’t know what it meant so I looked it up in urbandictionary.com and a lot of the definitions are making so much sense. I feel like I’m studying this person just by reading these definitions, but the problem is they’re all negative definitions.

What are a tool’s POSITIVE attributes? What’s good about them? What would you call them if you’re trying to be nice?
If you were trying to see the best in someone who other people call a tool, what would you see?

For instance, if someone were looking for the positives about people called CRAZY, you might say, well, crazy people are often GENUISES, so you can think of that person as a potential GENIUS and look for the value in the person’s ideas.

“Tool” is an insult and has no non-insulting implications. Sorry.

I’m not sure I understand why you are determined to give this person a label.

If you want to get along with this person just be nice, and compliment him on the specifics you find endearing or admirable. No need to label him anything.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but soldiers are trained to be tools and to do what their commanding officers say without question.

What definition of tool are you using? Someone who does another person’s bidding? Someone who lacks introspection and self awareness?

‘Tool’ is basically ‘jerk’, ‘wanker’ or ‘thinks the sun shines out of their butt’. So some of the positive characteristics a complete and total tool are:

Self-confidence (whether or not it’s deserved) is the mark of an utter tool. Many complete and utter tools are also highly knowledgeable and skilled in their area of expertise (and then demonstrate their toolhood by rubbing everyone’s noses in the fact at all possible opportunities)

Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear is the epitome of a total tool. That is, he’s genuinely clever and genuinely skilled at his job, but constantly sabotages this with episodes of pointless fucknuttery

I was hoping for more creative/wise responses than this. It isn’t an easy question. That’s why I gave an great example. Put again, if someone posted an akin question “Everyone calls this guy crazy, but I want to look for the good in him”, my response as an ADHD, schizoafective, and armchair psychologist would be “Oh, crazy people often have very unique, creative ideas that aren’t understood yet by the world. Once they explain their ideas productively by writing a best-selling book or convincing their field of a scientific truth by writing a genius proof or paper, then they are called a genius.”

Tony Stark is the epitome of egotism and narcissism in fiction, but he’s also a genius, billionaire, philoanthropist, leader, and superhero. So if you were looking for potential positives of egotism/narcissism, you might say “Oh, well those people are often great leaders/etc/etc” or “That person would make a great rock star”

Someone who is called “lazy” is very very often just ADHD, and that’s just a BRAIN TYPE, not an insult; ADHDers are extremely creative, so if you’re looking for the good in someone who “everybody always calls lazy”, one bet is that they’re a very creative but distractable person.

“tool” isn’t an insult in the way “stupid” or “ugly” is, you can’t really say/theorize anything about people that others are calling stupid/ugly. But the UD definitions are talking about psychological principles about different types of people. So, e.g. you might turn around the “insult” of someone who is “easily used” to be someone who is “EAGER TO HELP OUT”.

Well, soOoOoOoOorry! I may or may not be a tool, but I am a pedant, and the term “tool” simply doesn’t have a sufficiently nailed-down definition to be able to infer anything further about a person’s character simply because somebody called them it. (You indirectly reference this fact yourself by mentioning how inconsistent Urban Dictionary’s contributors are on the subject.)

But if we ignore the fact that the plebes don’t know what it means and refer to official sources, we can glean something approximating an official meaning. Which leads us to the other problem here: not all slurs have positive implications.

Merriam-Webster defines it as a foolish or unlikable person. There’s not a lot of positives to be derived from that.

Collins defines it as “a stupid, irritating, or contemptible man”. Similarly, not great.

Oh, and both the above dictionaries and also Oxford and Dictionary.com note that it’s slang for penis. I assume they’re talking about literal penises, but it wouldn’t surprise me if people used the term as a variant way to call other people dicks.

So if you wish to assume the subject of the slur is large and throbbing, feel free.

Not label, I want to understand him more. Let’s call him Bo. Bo’s a busy manager at a company that in a way is critical to my project, he can basically make a phone call and either have me arrested, or help my ideas/projects fly with the right people. I got slapped on his desk and he was very hostile, not comprehending the tiniest thing about me or the nature of the situation. The scenario is as volatile as a ticking nuclear bomb and I don’t have the opportunity to get to know him before I act next. My friend (via more details I told him) said Bo sounds like a tool, and looking at UD, there could be useful information. Like if a tool is “easily manipulated”, then one might think well I should try to manipulate Bo, but I don’t think like that. Maybe a tool is someone who doesn’t have a particularly creative mind? Maybe I have to explain things very plainly in a way that doesn’t ask Bo to play any creative role in the situation?

Just talk about that guy’s particular qualities you find to be positive. “Tool” is simply another insult like “asshole”, or “douchebag”. There’s no good thing about being an asshole or a douchebag.

You’re making this harder than it needs to be.

I agree that there isn’t.

If your friend had said Bo was a jerk, would you be still looking for useful information? Because that’s basically what your friend said. Your friend knows nothing about this guy other than what you’ve told him; a label he used is unlikely to convey additional information.

Pretty much every entry in UD for tool is offering a more useful/intelligent definition than you’re saying. Let’s just take the top definition:

One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-steem.
“That tool dosen’t even know she’s just using him.”

Now that is a definition you could actually translate parts of into psychology or corporate functioning. If someone doesn’t know they’re being used, then we might suspect the COMPANY is unfairly manipulating the person and not compensating them enough. If that’s so, that’s useful information I should take into consideration when thinking about their role in the company and how they personally interact with it.

And low self-esteem is a basic simple psychological item. One obvious solution is to compliment them and find ways to help them feel good about themselves. So if Bo has low self-esteem, I might find ways to compliment his way of handling the situation.

Ask your friend if that’s what he meant by “tool”. Only he can tell you what he meant. Because all I got from what you’ve written here is that Bo is a jerk. Whether I would have used that exact word or not, it’s what I would have meant.

And even if he used that term and meant that, do you think he has more insight into the matter than you do?

my non-dictionary-context-dependant understanding of “tool” as a descriptor of a person indicated that that person is too self-absorbed and sure of their greatness to realize or understand how they are (possibly) being maliciously manipulated and used by others even though it is blatant and obvious to those around them. They often act arrogant and disdainful of those they perceive to be of lesser stature (of whatever measure) and treat others poorly. All of this together often makes them seem to have somewhat less than average intelligence.

There is NO positive side to being called a tool, an asshole still smells the same by any other name.

ninjad dammit, shoulda read the thread first

In my experience, they are right. “Tool” is nowhere near as specific or standardized as those UD definitions are giving. Just look at the thumbs up to thumbs down ratios on the definitions. There is hardly a consensus. Majority opinion, sure, but many disagree. “Tool,” as I’ve always heard it, means something like “douchebag” in my circle of friends (although to me “tool” is a bit of an outdated word.)

I mean, there are some contexts where “tool” does mean somebody who is manipulated/a puppet, but calling someone, say, “a fucking tool” in general just means he’s a run-of-the-mill douche.

Here’s a good thread on the topic on stack exchange. Scroll down a bit, and this is how I’ve interpreted the word:

It may be that he is a jerk that can be persuaded through appealing to his self-importance. If you can slant your project to help him shine, perhaps it could be useful. But someone who is a tool is a jerk, a douchebag, an asshole.

I don’t feel like reading through the 5,000 definitions in the UD, but tool was used at MIT in 1969, and was hardly new then. Tool meant to study hard, and it wasn’t an insult because we all had to do it. It was definitely defined in the HOToGAMIT I got as a freshman (stands for How to Get Around MIT, in both meanings.)

Two examples from memory.

  1. In a parody of “California Girls” in our dorm song book, the chorus ends

“I wish they all would date MIT guys,
I wish that some would date MIT guys
I wish that one would date this MIT tech tool.”

My freshman year a junior on our hall yelled out “Tool it, freshmen.” And we yelled back, “Hah, hah, we’re on pass fail.”

An early negative meaning was in the Firesign Theatre Nick Danger bit, where Nancy says “Nick, you’re such a tool!”
Which we loved, of course.

Interestingly, in Israeli military slang, the Hebrew word for “tool”, Kli, is a a compliment, vaguely translated as “badass” (noun, not adjective). It has no implication of mindless obedience. Of course, *kli *has a somewhat broader meaning than the English “tool”, and can also refer to a weapon (kli-neshek) or a vehicle (kli-rechev).

“You might say, well, tools are often JEWS, so you can think of that person as a potential JEW and look for the value in the person’s ideas.”

Yeah, dunno about that one.

Okay, you’re not looking for a label, so let’s drop the whole “tool” conversation. You’re making this harder than it needs to be.

I understand your desire to try to match your approach as best as possible to his personality type, but you’re overthinking. You don’t need to understand his inner tickings, you need to only understand what you’ve already told us: he’s busy, he has no idea what you’re on about, and (reading between the lines) is not particularly interested. So regardless of whether he is easily manipulated, introverted, a mad genius, uncreative, has mommy issues or is secretly a lizard person, what he needs from you is simple: a clear understanding of your situation, what your specific needs are, and what’s in it for him.

To be honest, from this thread, I don’t get impression that presenting things in a clear, concise manner is necessarily one of your strengths, and I think that will be your stumbling block with Bo. He’s already annoyed that this has been dumped on him, and will not have much patience for vague, roundabout explanations and sidebars. Instead of asking for help deciphering his temperament, why not tell us what your project is and what (specifically) you want from him so we can help you craft a succinct pitch that will not waste his time?