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I'm not quite sure what the word I'm looking for is, but I think it would be something along the lines of stupid and unoriginal.

For example, let's say a man frequently gets into arguments with his wife, but he refuses to acknowledge that there is actually a problem or that he's doing anything wrong; he makes no effort to understand her, and instead blames it all on her period. Every. Single. Time.

Or, he gets into an argument with his teenage daughter and blames it all on her being a teenager.

What do you call this? A weak argument, a lame excuse, changing of the subject, or ... what?

  • Hi Kelly! Just to let you know we prefer that users include in their questions what efforts they have made to research answers prior to posting their question. Could you let us know what you've already tried and why you think or don't think the examples you've stated are or are not valid? – John Clifford Mar 15 '16 at 21:48
  • But Kelly, how do you really feel? :-) – user116032 Mar 15 '16 at 22:57
  • @JohnClifford Well, the examples I stated are the ones I thought of and researched, but none of them seemed to quite fit what I was thinking of. I think, like Captain Cranium said, they are just too vague. – user140525 Mar 16 '16 at 0:41
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    @user116032 I feel just fine, thank you :) And yourself? – user140525 Mar 16 '16 at 0:42
  • I call him dad (he's also my "voice of reason") but I think you're looking for subversion. – Mazura Mar 16 '16 at 0:49
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Your question suggests two lines of thinking. ‘Stupid and unoriginal’ as a general feature of the arguing person is too broad to be brought down to a single term, but your further description suggests ideas like blinkered, short-sighted, bigoted or jingoistic. These all relate to an unwillingness to acknowledge ideas beyond an already-assumed frame of reference.

On the other hand, you also describe an outward-looking strategy of attacking a perceived opponent’s credibility. In formal logic this is known as the ad hominem fallacy (literally ‘at the man’, as John Clifford has noted near here): the sleight-of-hand of avoiding inconvenient points by decrying ‘the man’ (male or female, obviously) rather than addressing what that person has actually said.

Politicians do this routinely, and you have probably been personally infuriated by it here and there in daily life. In pub banter it is simply a laugh to say, ‘That’s exactly the kind of rubbish a gay midget like you would come out with,’ because we all tacitly acknowledge its logical irrelevance. Over a serious matter, however, that kind of approach is generally seen as intellectually evasive and cowardly. Whatever I think of potential-President Donald Trump, for example, I have no time for anyone dismissing his politics on ground of wig-ignorance.

Referring to someone as a ‘tree-hugger’, similarly, is the mark of someone not addressing the issue, but still trying to ‘win’ a discussion (about anything at all) by creating the image of an unrealistically romantic hippie.

Of the terms you suggest, ‘weak argument’ and ‘lame excuse’ certainly apply but are very vague. What you describe is certainly ‘changing of the subject’ in the sense of suddenly arguing about someone’s age or menstrual state rather than the subject at hand, and if that is the specific strategy you have in mind then ad hominem argument is what it is technically called.

Other terms that might be relevant include browbeating, bullying and generally avoiding the issue. Some proportion of hypocrisy could well be in the mix. Any or all of those might be appropriate, depending on relative emphases within the argumentative style you are describing, and what it is trying to achieve.

You could also consider defensive or reactionary, to describe either the person or the rhetorical strategy. Your portrayal of this character sounds misogynistic and overbearing, but to be fair he might just see himself as beleaguered and repelling boarders, like the strangely sympathetic sitcom bigot Alf Garnett.

  • Glad someone else agreed with my ad hominem assessment, have a +1 to take to the party. – John Clifford Mar 16 '16 at 6:16
  • @JohnClifford Thank you -- most gracious! I hadn't seen your comment (on an answer that I knee-jerkily just thought lacked dimensions), but of course (in my view) you are correct. Or, rather, the core that you and I have both picked out from this seems likely to be what OP is after. I have gone back and acknowledged this. – Captain Cranium Mar 16 '16 at 10:50
  • Thanks for the acknowledgement! I already upvoted your answer so I can't do it again, unfortunately. :( – John Clifford Mar 16 '16 at 10:52
  • @JohnClifford Neither an expectation nor a problem! Thanks for the peer engagement and so on in addressing Stuff. 'swot we're here for, seems to me. – Captain Cranium Mar 16 '16 at 11:11
  • Speak for yourself, I'm here to waste vast quantities of time I should be spending doing useful work. And, er...help people to answer their questions about English language usage...obviously. – John Clifford Mar 16 '16 at 11:12
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That kind of man is called a boor and his behaviour is boorish.

  • I can't be 100% sure without confirmation from OP Lambie, but she seems to be looking for a phrase describing the argument itself, rather than the man having it. – John Clifford Mar 15 '16 at 22:09
  • I don't believe there are types of arguments, in that sense. There is only the attitude of those engaging in them. So, one is left with: a stupid argument, an intelligent argument, repeated arguments, etc. etc. For me, the answer is adjectival. :) – Lambie Mar 15 '16 at 22:18
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    My take on it is that the situation would be described as an argumentum ad hominem; do you think this would adequately cover its type? – John Clifford Mar 15 '16 at 22:19
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    Sorry Lambie, someone's flagged your answer as low-quality, possibly because it's too short or not detailed enough. I think it would be sufficient to add references to the terms you're using as your answers, but if you can think of any more edits you could make to improve it please feel free to do so. - From Review – John Clifford Mar 15 '16 at 23:21
  • To reinforce what John Clifford said, "boorish behavior" is apt, but your answer needs to be expanded. Put a little flesh on the skeleton of your answer. – ab2 Mar 16 '16 at 1:23

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