According to Wikipedia, accismus 'is a form of irony wherein a person pretends not to want an object they truly desire,' but, I wonder, what is 'a person who pretends not to want an object they truly desire' called — i.e., someone feigning an absence of interest in that which they keenly desire?

While I cannot understand English proverbs, it seems that "fie upon hens, quoth the fox because he could not reach them" could be appropriate in cases like this one, but I would like to know a single word or a concise expression to describe that person, rather than the situation.

Thus, my question is: Is there a word or a concise expression to describe 'a person who pretends not to want an object they truly desire'?

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    One could coin accismite from accismus, though I can't find anyone else having done so. – Jon Hanna Sep 10 '13 at 15:58
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    Coy or one of its synonyms? thesaurus.com/browse/coy – dcaswell Sep 10 '13 at 17:09

Someone like you described could be feigning indifference (though this can also be used for a variety of reasons such as feigning indifference to being snubbed, being the subject of gossip, etc.):

feign /feɪn/ vb

  1. to put on a show of (a quality or emotion); pretend: to feign innocence

  2. (transitive) to make up; invent: to feign an excuse

  3. (transitive) to copy; imitate

Etymology: 13th Century: from Old French feindre to pretend, from Latin fingere to form, shape, invent

indifference /ɪnˈdɪfrəns -fərəns/ n

  1. the fact or state of being indifferent; lack of care or concern

  2. lack of quality; mediocrity

  3. lack of importance; insignificance


OP's specific example isn't really a known "proverb" to most native speakers, but many of us are familiar with the related sour grapes from Aesop's fables. Because the fox can't reach the higher-up grapes, he says they're "sour" (so he doesn't want them anyway, and he's lost nothing of value).

I'm not sure there's a specific term for a person exhibiting this behaviour, but sour grapes is sufficiently well-known that it's sometimes adapted, as in He's a sour grape (which I understand as meaning He habitually disparages things he doesn't/can't have).


For hypernyms, consider adjective deceptive (“misleading, likely or attempting to deceive”) and noun deceiver (“A person who lies or deceives”). A person who pretends not to want an object they actually want is deceptive and may be a deceiver (so the hypernym relation holds), but the converse isn't valid.

Reticent (“Keeping one's thoughts and opinions to oneself; reserved or restrained”) and reserved (“Slow to reveal emotion or opinions”) may also be relevant.


I would call the person a phoney or fake.

And reading FF's point on sour grapes another word comes to mind but it would have to be in the right context. If the person disparaged what they can't get but really want, they would be a hater.

  • I'd say a "phoney/fake" is more about a person that pretends to be something they're not. It's not really about feigning indifference, although some phoneys do pretend to be "cool" by acting unaffected. – Chan-Ho Suh Sep 11 '13 at 3:42
  • You are taking phoney or fake at their most extreme - which may be their normal use. Toned down they would/could be used for this. – RyeɃreḁd Sep 11 '13 at 14:48

The pathological personality of a narcissist manifests itself in his pretense of not caring for someone, particularly a person who ceases to be an instrument of the narcissist's self-gratification.

Behind the pretense is the desire to woo his "source of supply" back to being his enabler in narcissism. The narcissist therefore erects a facade of indifference by giving the erstwhile enabler the silent treatment, for example. By pretending to devalue and discard the enabler, he secretly hopes to draw him back into his web of self-centeredness. The former enabler, if sufficiently perceptive, will recognize the feigned indifference for what it really is: a mask that hides the narcissist's aggression and hostility for having been "dumped."

In the war between the sexes, the ploy of a woman, for example, who pretends not to be interested in a man when in fact she is highly attracted to him, is quite common, and while there is a touch of narcissism in that particular ploy, it can also lead to a mutually satisfying relationship of give and take, and not just the one-sided take, take, take of the narcissist and his enabler.

We should also not ignore the obvious: for there to be irony, there also needs to be an ironist (at least in non-situational ironies). In ancient Greek plays, one of the stock characters was the eiron who pretended to know less than he actually did. His foil was the alazon who pretended to know much more than he actually did. The eiron, much to the delight of the audience, exposed the ignorance and hubris of the alazon by sucking him into his web of intrigue with subtle and not-so-subtle enticements of feigned ignorance, as if to say, "Oh, please, do enlighten me!"

Finally, in child-rearing, the wise parent might feign indifference when the child threatens to run away from home. The parent will say, "OK, I'll help you pack a suitcase!" When the child senses the parent will not miss him, and that he's actually going to be away from home and on his own, he starts to have second thoughts. A case of simple psychology. Is there a name for the parent in this case? Well, ironist comes to mind!

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