idiomatic irregular verbs and conjugation
February 23, 2016 10:38 AM   Subscribe

"I mobilize people, you pander, he demagogues" and "I am an innocent victim; you made some foolish choices; she totally deserved it" and "I have a philosophy, you have a tendency, they have an ideology" are examples of a kind of conjugation, where the preferred phrases change depending on the distance to the speaker. Can you think of more examples?
posted by the man of twists and turns to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
"I am erotic, you are kinky, they are perverts."
posted by clavicle at 10:39 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

There's the classic from the BBC political satire Yes Minister:
It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I have an independent mind, You are eccentric, He is round the twist.
posted by metaBugs at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I stick to my guns, you are a bit stubborn, he is just obstinate.

I am a free spirit, you are eccentric, he is nuts.
posted by peakcomm at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2016

Best answer: I advocate. You complain. She whines.

I drive defensively. You drive too fast. That asshole drives like a maniac.

I am frugal. You are cheap. He is a skinflint.

I am cautious. You are nervous. He is paranoid.

I'm walking. You're dawdling. She is lazy. (Lazy is a good example for maximum distance)

I like to dress well. You are a clothes horse. She is a fashion plate.

You can find more examples of this in discussions of fundamental attribution errors. (See Fritz Heider and others on this.)
posted by bilabial at 10:56 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I glow, you perspire, he sweats.
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pig-headed fool.
posted by Solomon at 11:05 AM on February 23, 2016

My things, your stuff, his shit.
posted by bq at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know if conjugation is quite the right word --- you're using entirely different, independent verbs, which each have their own declension. It's that they describe the same basic action with different connotations. It goes me positively inflected-x, you neutral to slightly negative-inflected x, they very negatively-inflected x. Or My Virtue, Your Foible, Their Flaw.
posted by Diablevert at 11:34 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

My information, your biased sources, his propaganda.
posted by hazyjane at 11:58 AM on February 23, 2016

He is a terrorist, you are an insurgent, I am a freedom fighter.
posted by firechicago at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This was invented by philosopher Bertrand Russell in the 1940s. He called them either "irregular verbs" or "emotive conjugations," depending on what source you believe. Google his name and these terms for more.
posted by FencingGal at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is also attribution bias, fwiw.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:40 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am healthily skeptical; you are suspiciously cynical; he is psychotically paranoid.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2016

I'm smart, you're a bit unwise, he's a damned fool.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:44 PM on February 23, 2016

I'm debating, you're arguing, he's ranting
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 4:53 PM on February 23, 2016

Does "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" qualify?
posted by Brittanie at 2:26 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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