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Help me find an adjective
July 18, 2014 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I need an adjective for a person who knows they're doing the wrong thing, but does it anyway with the attitude, "I don't care; no one can tell me what to do." It's not 'arrogant', but it's close; it has an element of arrogance mixed with impulsiveness and irresponsibility, as the person engages in extreme and self-destructive behaviors, with attitudes of spite, stubbornness and obstinacy about the consequences.

A couple of examples:
  • A man in his early 30s knows he's already well along the path to kidney failure, but decides to go out binge drinking, thinking, "If I get kidney failure, so be it."
  • A man in his late 50s/early 60s resumes chain-smoking after 18 years in order to increase his risk of cancer, in the hope that he will get cancer, after which he intends to let it take its course so that he can die as passively but as quickly as possible.
In both of the above examples, the individuals have family members who love them but who are forced to stand by helplessly.

A further example:
  • A man deliberately and pointedly eats the hottest raw chilli in its entirety after being warned about the dire consequences in the case of his particular physiology, for no reason other than to prove a point about his autonomy to the person who warned him.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Human Relations (61 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
bull-headed
posted by Mchelly at 7:49 AM on July 18 [12 favorites]


Pigheadedly contrary.
posted by Etrigan at 7:52 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


willful
posted by General Tonic at 7:52 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


defiant
posted by nathaole at 7:52 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Fatalistic.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:54 AM on July 18 [8 favorites]


churlish
posted by rlk at 7:56 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Reactance.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:59 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


Insouciant?
posted by BibiRose at 8:00 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


intransigent
posted by Sybil Stockwell Oop at 8:00 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Also, devil-may-care or perverse.
posted by BibiRose at 8:01 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


"To cut off one's nose to spite one's face" captures much of what you're trying to convey, but I'm not sure what the adjective for it would be.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:02 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


Hubris
posted by Room 641-A at 8:04 AM on July 18


Obstinate?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:06 AM on July 18 [7 favorites]


willfully ignorant
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:07 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Urban dictionary has the word "ignant", explaining:
"While ignorant implies doing or saying something foolish not knowing any better, ignant implies that the person knew damn well and chose to act foolish anyway." There are other definitions though.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:10 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


I would call the first two "passively suicidal" since they're a few steps past, say, a college kid who stays up drinking with friends the night before finals, which is the sort of thing I was thinking of above the fold.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:14 AM on July 18


Ornery? Bloody-minded? (See sense #2.)
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bloody-minded
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:20 AM on July 18


In England they would be called "bloody-minded". Might not work in your dialect though.
posted by Thing at 8:20 AM on July 18 [12 favorites]


Immature
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:24 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


Cavalier?
posted by jabes at 8:30 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


I agree with "perverse", or perhaps akratic?
posted by zinful at 8:36 AM on July 18


I've also used incorrigible and obstreperous for this
posted by Mchelly at 8:36 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


blasé ?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:40 AM on July 18


In this New Yorker article about Peter Rosenberg, Andrew Marantz describes him as having “a you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit approach to baldness.” (Subscription required, but the quote’s in the second sentence of the excerpt at that link.) I think that captures something about what you’re trying to describe in the first two examples, at least -- maybe the third one, too.
posted by thursdaystoo at 8:40 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


hard-headed
posted by mmiddle at 8:55 AM on July 18


thick-headed, mulish
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:06 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


refractory, although it has the disadvantage that most people won't bother looking it up.
posted by bswinburn at 9:27 AM on July 18


I call this immature.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:29 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


belligerent
posted by strelitzia at 9:30 AM on July 18


apathetic
posted by strelitzia at 9:32 AM on July 18


Recalcitrant: Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude towards authority or discipline.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:37 AM on July 18 [8 favorites]


I sort of think the two sets of examples are slightly different since the first involve death as a consequence and the second, presumably, just severe gastric distress. I'd say the two who are already likely to die early are fatalistic and the second is perverse. Although it could be defiant if the point the eater is trying to prove is that the assessment of his physiology is incorrect.

"ignant" reminds me of the difference between naked and nekkid: naked is without clothing, nekkid is naked and fixin' to get into trouble.
posted by Beti at 9:43 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


flagrant?

(I like this game.)
posted by nadise at 10:06 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Headstrong
posted by muhonnin at 10:07 AM on July 18


If the person is behaving this way in defiance of authority, it's reactance. Your "I don't care; no one can tell me what to do" phrase, and some of your examples, seem to indicate this. However, you have to tease apart "I don't care" from "no one can tell me what to do" from the less-emotional-sounding desire of the cancer sufferer to die quickly (which may be caused by legitimate fear of suffering).

You've got multiple motivations going on, but if the person is acting specifically to assert autonomy, it's almost certainly reactance.

I think that reactance is a very important motivation that we really need to address as a culture. A lot of political impetus seems to come from this strong desire to not be told what to do. It occurrs to me that many early European immigrants to the US probably had a larger-than-normal hatred of being told what to do :)
posted by amtho at 10:16 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


If you aren't opposed to slang, YOLO.
posted by dekathelon at 10:17 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Reckless?
posted by humph at 10:19 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Consider that the first two examples are dealing with addictive substances and probably some degree of depression as well. If people get away from the labels they might start looking at the person and finding out what he or she actually needs
posted by SLC Mom at 10:48 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


"bloody-minded"
posted by tel3path at 11:00 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


self-seeking (-absorbed, -serving), egotistical, narcissistic, etc.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:28 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


don't-give-a-shitalist
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:34 AM on July 18


"Willful, wanton, and/or reckless disregard" are some good ol' fashioned common law legal terms. Grossly negligent is a slightly lower degree of culpability.



[Back to bar prep.]
posted by Schielisque at 11:41 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


My mother and those of her generation would call a person so described as contrary, which was defined as "spitefully inclined to disagree and/or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired."

She pronounced it kun-TRAIR-ree when describing such a person. If using the word to describe someone or something that was merely opposed, she pronounced it CON-trair-ree.

Thus:

"He's the most contrary person I ever did hear of! He would gripe with a ham under each arm!!

versus:

"We're meeting tomorrow night? That's contrary to what I was told."
posted by magstheaxe at 11:44 AM on July 18 [11 favorites]


Oppositional
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:00 PM on July 18


blithe
posted by The Tensor at 12:48 PM on July 18


Where I'm from in Scotland, the word would be thrawn.
posted by kudra23 at 12:53 PM on July 18


Sociopathic?
posted by zenpop at 1:01 PM on July 18


I call this "Wrongheaded" but it might just be me. Otherwise "bloodyminded" is the closest I can think of.
posted by Rumple at 1:24 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Entitled.
posted by Dansaman at 3:38 PM on July 18


Conceited.
posted by Dansaman at 3:40 PM on July 18


Self - destructive
posted by uncleGarage at 5:49 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Agreed that the first two and last one don't fit together. "I'm going to smoke so I can die" is self-destructive; "I'll eat this pepper and who cares if I pay for it later" is anything from reckless to devil-may-care.
posted by argybarg at 6:04 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Impudent?
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:11 PM on July 18


Intractable.

I think this because the thematic element present in all the examples seems to be the presence of a person not acting in their own best interest. Or perhaps in the defiance of the broadly held concept of what best interest is to each individually. Put differently, all of these examples seem to involve a person acting in, what could be arguably called, the strictly dominated strategy of their particular situation.

I also think that the concept of "arrogance" is misplaced within these examples. Arrogance would imply that the actors believe the consequences do not apply to them. In the examples as written the actors seem to accept or even, in the case of the smoker, court the consequences.

And I'm just curious, why is this a human relations question?
posted by SinisterPurpose at 9:04 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Hmm, counter dependent?
posted by zinful at 10:31 AM on July 19


Asshole would be my first choice, but also:

Spiteful
Peevish
Ornery
Self-centered
Narcissistic
Petty, mean, and low-minded
Pig-headed
Grudging
Sulky
Resentful
Bitter
Aggrieved
Obdurate
Willfully obstinate
Entitled
Self-victimizing or self-martyring
Chip-on-one's-shoulder
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 2:43 PM on July 19


And I'm just curious, why is this a human relations question?

The three examples given are actually examples from the lives of three generations of men in a single family known to me. There are many other examples of the same kinds of behavioral attitudes. I've been trying to identify a common characteristic within the family which accounts for these behaviors.

I really appreciate everyone's suggestions.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:20 AM on July 20


Contrary is the absolute perfect word for what's described above the fold.

Your three examples seem quite a bit different in attitude, though (as described here). To me, they seem more:

1) short-sighted/fatalistic/depressed/addiction-fueled (or otherwise) rationalization

2) need more information about motive for why he wants to die, quickly or otherwise, and whether he's actually suicidal or just saying it to provoke people and/or rationalize addiction. Doesn't sound contrary, as described here.

3) yeah, contrary fits here. Alternatively, stubborn/reckless/rebellious/reactive.

As far as the link between them, I'm not sure a single adjective fits all three attitudes exactly but something like stubbornness/strong will (not always a bad thing) is a common trait that could contribute to those kinds of behaviour.
posted by randomnity at 10:02 AM on July 20


A man in his early 30s knows he's already well along the path to kidney failure, but decides to go out binge drinking, thinking, "If I get kidney failure, so be it."

A man in his late 50s/early 60s resumes chain-smoking after 18 years in order to increase his risk of cancer, in the hope that he will get cancer, after which he intends to let it take its course so that he can die as passively but as quickly as possible.

Self destructive.

A man deliberately and pointedly eats the hottest raw chilli in its entirety after being warned about the dire consequences in the case of his particular physiology, for no reason other than to prove a point about his autonomy to the person who warned him.

Self destructive, but also contrarian (although my first thought was 'fuckwit').
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:38 PM on July 20


Sounds like oppositional defiance to me.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:54 AM on July 21


Guy Clark: "And I have been too proud to come in out of the rain"
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:29 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


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