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Say person A and person B are having a discussion/argument.

Person A tells person B that his views are arrogant, or closed-minded, or some other derogatory adjective.
But in fact it is person A's views that are arrogant, closed-minded, etc. Person B's views are usually the exact opposite of what person A is accusing him of.

This sort of situation happens a lot when discussing politics or religion, for example.

What do you call person A, for calling person B something that he himself is?

I guess, for the most part, person A doesn't actually realize that he is the one that the adjective applies to, and not person B. Maybe there is a different name if person A knows the adjective also applies to him.

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Person A may also know full well that the adjective applies only himself. In those circumstances its is a debate tactic, and often a very effective one. You see it a lot these days. – Wayfaring Stranger Mar 25 '15 at 19:16
up vote 26 down vote accepted

An idiom for this situation is the pot calling the kettle 'black'.

A fitting term for a person who does this is hypocrite; though the exact meaning of that word is someone who pretends to be what he is not, it applies because the person is pretending to be better than whom he is denouncing, while in reality he is the same.

If you want to look at it from a psychological standpoint, using that terminology (suggested by Henry), you could consider psychological projection (aka projection bias):

Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.

Psychological projection appears to be the most common and unambiguous term; referencing google searches, I find that projection bias may sometimes be used to mean something else.

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+1 as I think the idiom is right on the money, but it's not a single word (maybe there is no single word). I think Hypocrite is not exactly appropriate as I mentioned in another comment. – Paulo Pinto Sep 2 '11 at 19:20
"Projectionist", one supposes, but you might expect that they work at the local cinema. – Chris B. Behrens Sep 2 '11 at 21:03
"pot calling the kettle black" is close, but both pot and kettle are, in fact, black, so it doesn't seem like a bang-on match. I'm not aware of this being an accepted term, but I am going to propose calling this phenomenon the Pee-Wee Herman Fallacy, as in, "I know you are, but what am I?" – Adam Rice Sep 2 '11 at 22:23
@Adam +1 "pot calling the kettle black" is used in situations say, where person A is calling person B arrogant whereas person A himself is equally arrogant. – John Sep 3 '11 at 4:48
@Paulo hypocrite may not be exactly appropriate in your view, but it would be the word that most people would immediately apply. The person who is critical of someone who shares that person's attributes in some way is pretending to be better than him. – ghoppe Sep 8 '11 at 17:36

"Hypocrite"(n) and "hypocritical"(adj) come to mind. There are other expressions describing the situation, although they are not specifically a label/adjective for the person.

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I had thought about Hypocrite, but the definition states "one who pretends to be what he is not". But in this case it's more of a case of "one who doesn't know he his the opposite of what he thinks he is". – Paulo Pinto Sep 2 '11 at 19:16

The term "projection" may be what you want. (It comes from psychology originally, but gets used in other contexts.).

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try self-referential

Referring to oneself or itself: The biographer's account of the poet's life was surprisingly self-referential.

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If you want something really strong there's always:


Rosten also defined the term as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

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The meaning of chutzpah has nothing to do with the quote that's being used to give an example of it. That's like saying that an appropriate word for "terrible restaurant" is "airplane" because Seinfeld asked what's the deal with airline food. – fluffy Mar 18 '12 at 17:55

After a lot of thought, and because having a concise term to describe such a person would be useful, I've come up with: "misguided unconscious self-critic" or "misguided unconscious deluded self-critic".

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