I am trying to find a word/phrase that describes someone who performs a "reality check" every time people suffer from misconceptions or over-exuberance. He/she is the "voice of caution" that prevents "fools from rushing in." A sage with a sobering influence.

What I'm looking for could be an eponymous adjective such as panglossian (though obviously panglossian is nearly an antonym for what I actually want). It could be a noun - such as Cassandra - if such a character personified the above traits. Any idiomatic expression or slang that might also fit the above criteria would also help.

The closest I have gotten so far: pessimist, skeptic, realist.

I want to use the word/phrase in a sentence such as: "I hate to be a realist/prophet of doom/Cassandra/killjoy, but there is no way we can hit these goals in just a week!"

  • 12
    I usually call him dad.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 11, 2016 at 16:58
  • 2
    Just wondering, but what's wrong with the word realist? It sounds kinda perfect, though I would use the realist in your sentence. Mar 11, 2016 at 18:49
  • Depending on the formality of the situation, or lack there of, then you can try this: "I don't mean to pee in your Cheerios, but there is no way we can hit these goals in just a week!"
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 11, 2016 at 19:53
  • I can’t find any examples of the following idiomatic phrases used in your context, but it nevertheless might be comment-worthy to suggest that you could perhaps use “I’m sorry to be [such] a constant reminder of the truth/facts, but … .” sarcastically as a noun phrase or “I’m sorry for being Stack Overflow ever-mindful of the truth/facts, but … .” adjectively.
    – Papa Poule
    Mar 11, 2016 at 20:16
  • Would it be too esoteric to say "I hate to be Voltaire, but...."? If so, are you familiar with the NAm figure of speech "to drink the Kool-Aid"?
    – Egox
    Mar 11, 2016 at 20:39

8 Answers 8


I think Devil's Advocate fits in certain scenarios. A Devil's Advocate is

a person who advocates an opposing or unpopular cause for the sake of argument or to expose it to a thorough examination.

In your case, the devil's advocate might point out possible problems with the plans of the group, and if those points prevent the group from doing what they were planning, that person could be seen as a kill-joy.


Person 1: "We should go cliff jumping!"

Person 2: "That sounds great!"

Devil's Advocate: "Just to play Devil's Advocate, we are predicted to have thunderstorms later, so cliff jumping may be a bad idea. Also, didn't you break your arm doing that last year?"

Person 1: "I guess you're right, why do you always have to ruin our fun ideas?"

  • I think this is closest to my original intention, and I'm going to use Devil's Advocate. Marking as answer. Thanks.
    – nonbeing
    Mar 12, 2016 at 8:19
  • @noum Devil's Advocate is something entirely different. A "voice of caution" cannot be "Devil's Advocate" because the Devil, presumable, doesn't caution people against taking proper action but tempts into taking improper ones. The example above does not fit.
    – A.S.
    Mar 12, 2016 at 10:13
  • 1
    @A.S.: A devil’s advocate can be a voice of caution sometimes, as in the answer’s excellent example. The phrase has lost its theological connotations, and come to hold the meaning quoted in this answer. However, I don’t think it’s a good answer for the question in general — there are just as many situations where a devil’s advocate wouldn’t be a voice of caution. (E.g. A: “We shouldn’t let the kids go swimming; it’s dangerous.” B: “Yes, agreed; someone drowned here last year. C: “Just to be devil’s advocate, maybe it’s better to let them swim now, while we’re here to watch and advise.”)
    – PLL
    Mar 12, 2016 at 15:12
  • @PLL "Devil's Advocate" has surely lost its original theological meaning, but references to Devil are not to be made when one is not taking an unconventional, possibly careless, dangerous or risky position. On top of it, D.A. usually refers to a hypothetical position, taken for the sake of the argument/exploration - not a realistic, "reasonable" positions/suggestion. D.A. isn't really trying to push through his idea - he is trying to correct/adjust the main one (like a woman "resisting" seduction). I see none of it in your example. thefreedictionary.com/devil's+advocate
    – A.S.
    Mar 12, 2016 at 16:14

While not suggesting that either of these terms has entered into usage as stand ins for their characteristics, if you want fanciful you might consider Mr. Spock or Lieutenant Data, both characters in the Star Trek series (original and Next Generation respectively).

Both of them are characterized by decision-making informed by facts and precise logic, and a rejection of emotional influence on the process.

Supplement: More conventionally, there is spoilsport

(informal) a person who spoils the pleasure of other people by his or her actions or attitudes


Similarly wet blanket

(informal) A person who spoils other people’s fun by failing to join in with or by disapproving of their activities.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

Finally, there is worrywart

(North American informal) A person who tends to dwell unduly on difficulty or troubles.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

This last term suggests overbearing and perhaps unnecessary hesitancy.

  • I was also thinking along the lines of the Next Generation, but what came to my mind was Lieutenant Worf, as he constantly went for the aggressive move and usually was overruled by Captain Picard.
    – Gil Keidar
    Mar 11, 2016 at 16:55


party pooper

noun informal

a person who throws gloom over social enjoyment.
"I hate to be a party pooper, but I've got to catch the last train"

As the definition says, they are sort of the voice of reason. Are you going to do anything irrational as fun? Someone might burst that bubble, and turn into a Party pooper!


Although neither an adjective nor a noun, “[Sorry/hate to] rain on your/this parade" is an idiomatic phrase that would work in your example sentence:

"I hate/am sorry to rain on your/this parade, but there is no way we can hit these goals in just a week!"
(example usage from ‘Please Don’t Break An Angel's Heart’ by Faith Ford, via ‘Google Books’)

rain on someone's parade and rain on someone or something
Fig. to spoil something for someone.
I hate to rain on your parade, but your plans are all wrong.
She really rained on our plans.

(definition/meaning from ‘McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs’ via ‘The Free Dictionary by Farlex’)


If you are prudent, you're acting in a way that shows careful forethought and is relatively cautious. A prudentialist (not a common word, but it's in the OED) is someone whose primary motivations are based around being prudent.


Sometimes the phrase "voice of reason" is used to describe such people.

For instance, "I hate to be the voice of reason here, but even if you do successfully manage to acquire a goat, then manage to paint it with pink and green polka dots, and then manage to get the goat on the roof, someone is almost certainly going to call the police, report it, and get it removed before Joe gets home from work. Therefore, despite his well-known fear of being attacked from above by polka-dotted livestock, we should probably find a different prank."


Consider, Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket is a small cricket and the deuteragonist of the 1940 Disney animated feature film, Pinocchio.

Serving as the official conscience to the film's protagonist, Pinocchio, Jiminy is tasked with keeping the wooden boy in line, teaching him valuable life morals and the dangers of temptation, all the while adding a wise-cracking, comedic element to the story.


"Oh, you're such a Jiminy Cricket." Google Books

  • I wonder if the initials of Jiminy Cricket (viz., J.C.) constitute more than a casual coincidence? Disney wasn't a religious man in the traditional sense, was he? Just wonderin'. Don Mar 11, 2016 at 19:07

I would suggest "bearer of bad news".

TheFreeDictionary defines it as such:

Literally, someone who delivers bad news. The bearer often identifies himself or herself as such as an introductory warning that he or she has bad news to deliver. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm afraid your grandfather passed away late last night. We were celebrating our teacher's absence until Susie, the bearer of bad news, told us that the principal was coming to give us our exam.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.