What do you call someone who says they will do things but doesn't? And if they do it, they take 6 months rather than the 6 days they said they could but not necessarily specified that they would?

My husband is a tow truck driver, so he barely has spare time as it is. He also has an odd job business, which doesn't get much business.

He still has a heater here at my apartment left from 8 months ago that he was supposed to fix. Still has to fix his truck and put the new motor in it which he still has to drive 2 hours to get, even though he has a perfectly good one right here.

He has also claimed in the last year that by next year (so that'd be pretty much now, right?) he would have rebuilt a tractor, a snowplow, 2 trucks, a house trailer and a flat bed and he was going to build one, and a motorcycle, plus a 3 wheeler, 4 wheeler, help his dad with his house, get him and I a place...I could go on and on.

Yet he barely sees his son and me and hasn't been home for dinner in 6 months because he is busy working. I will admit he has gotten some jobs done but just at max only 2/3 of them.

I think it's more like 1/3 but I'm trying to give him credit. So what would he be called?

  • 5
    Are you looking for a noun or an adjective? Unreliable seems to fit. Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:21
  • 19
    I'm pretty sure that this is a quote from somewhere, but Google has failed me in finding its source. Maybe I just invented it. Who knows? When men say we're going to do something, we mean that we're going to do it. We don't need "little reminders" every six bloody months.
    – tobyink
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 9:56
  • 5
    Some of us DO need reminders, I would refrain from sexist comments and stereotyping on Male memory capacity Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:19
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    I would like to warn you that I perceive complaining here and that it's best to avoid that. I think that you got the point across with the first example (or even with no examples). In the future, please vent before posting the question.
    – kettlecrab
    Commented May 16, 2014 at 6:21
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    @JoshuaLamusga - I got the impression that the OP knows that her husband, in what little spare time he has, reads EL&U.
    – davidbak
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 23:37

9 Answers 9


Reasonably unformally, but not vulgar, is flake (noun) or flakey (adj.) for somebody who is unreliable.

  • That's the only one that explicitly expresses the concept asked for in the question.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:24
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    A flake will flake-out, indicating something like a neurosis. 66% success rate is not neurotic. That's better than average for software projects.
    – som-snytt
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 0:24
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    This is very apt, but it's worth noting that it's mainly an American word --- it's unusual in British English (and I think also Australian), though not absolutely unknown.
    – PLL
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 9:28
  • @PLL - I'm a Kiwi and it's not uncommon here.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:33

It sounds like his heart's in the right place and he's not slacking off, he's just overambitious and bites off more than he can chew.

  • 1
    He's an optimist.
    – som-snytt
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 0:21

I would say he overextends himself. Also, perhaps he has a hard time saying no. Anyway, he doesn't need a label, he needs a hand.


Answering the question in general terms, the word I'd suggest is procrastinator.

If the person's slowness at getting round to the tasks is involuntary -- because they simply don't have enough time to do the jobs they said they were going to do -- over-promiser or over-optimist may be more to the point.

(From your posting, it does sound as though you and your husband need to periodically sit down and prioritize and/or timetable those tasks and/or hand some of them off to other people. Better that, perhaps, than to let your anger continue to build up and fester. :-)


If you're looking for an adjective, they're definitely unreliable.


I would call him a "cunctator" or "postponer."

cunctator: someone who postpones work (especially out of laziness or habitual carelessness).


shirker may be a definition for:

  • a person who evades work, duty, responsibility. But it looks like from your description that your husband is also a busy person.

Perhaps he is an optimist, overconfident or unpredictable. He might (or might not) be uncommitted, unfocused or off-task.

Idiomatically, you might choose in the weeds, off the deep end, out of his depth, or perhaps he's just a poor estimator and/or in the dog house.


"He bites off more than he can chew" is, I believe, an excellent colloquialism referring to this sort of behavior.

Also, "He has great expectations" or "high aspirations" - used in a somewhat ironic/euphemistic sense.

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