I've noticed that some people really love to overcomplicate things to seem intellectually superior. For instance, say I somehow dropped a pile of clothes on the ground. They'd then ask me: "When would I stop being a pile? If I keep taking away one article at a time, when would it no longer be a heap?" I'm asking if there's there a word for this needlessly philosophical behavior? Thanks!

  • "When would I stop being a pile" = "When would it [the pile] stop being a pile"? – Sven Yargs Jul 8 '16 at 4:45
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    Maybe you’re looking for pretentious but I’d call it interesting critical thinking that helps you understand these terms (pile and heap) more clearly. – Jim Jul 8 '16 at 5:05
  • The example you give is a little odd. Is there a reason you've used both 'heap' and 'pile'? – dwjohnston Jul 8 '16 at 5:37
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    You could say such people are overanalytical (often shortened to just anal! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 8 '16 at 13:03

The "when-is-a-pile-not-a-pile" question is the famous Paradox of Sorites (sorites being the Greek word for "pile").

Bringing up the paradox (or whatever other obscure issue) on any excuse might be "overintellectualizing" or just "snooty".

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    When less than 472.9634 grains are left. Or is that fewer? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 8 '16 at 8:53

It sounds like you're looking for pretentious:

attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.

"a pretentious literary device"

synonyms: affected, ostentatious, showy; overambitious, pompous, artificial, inflated, overblown, high-sounding, flowery, grandiose, elaborate, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, grandiloquent, magniloquent, sophomoric;

informal: flashy, highfalutin, fancy-pants, la-di-da, pseudo

"Clytemnestra is a pretentious name for a dog"

You might also consider obfuscate:

render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

"the spelling changes will deform some familiar words and obfuscate their etymological origins"

synonyms: obscure, confuse, make unclear, blur, muddle, complicate, overcomplicate, muddy, cloud, befog

"mere rationalizations to obfuscate rather than clarify the real issue"

bewilder (someone).

"it is more likely to obfuscate people than enlighten them"

synonyms: bewilder, mystify, puzzle, perplex, confuse, baffle, confound, bemuse, befuddle, nonplus; informalflummox

"her work became more and more obfuscated by mathematics and jargon"

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  • +1 for pretentious -1 for obfuscate – Jim Jul 11 '16 at 0:46

single word:


dicitionary.com definition:

to speculate or theorize, usually in a superficial or imprecise manner.


dictionary.com definition:

1. ostentatious in one's learning. 2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.


dictionary.com definition:

  1. characterized by [the making of unnecessarily fine distinctions].


dictionary.com definition:

  1. to be excessively concerned with or critical of inconsequential details.


dictionary.com definition:

to spend more time thinking about something than is necessary or productive


make a song and dance about nothing

cambridge dictionary definition:

UK informal: to make something seem more important than it really is so that everyone notices it:

similar: much ado about nothing

make a mountain out of a molehill


an idiom referring to over-reactive, histrionic behaviour where a person makes too much of a minor issue

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    I think "make a mountain out of a molehill" is especially appropriate in the context of OP's example. It does raise the question, though, of when exactly a molehill becomes a mountain. – No More Secrets Jul 8 '16 at 16:51
  • @No More Secrets ~ good point, I didn't think of that secondary double entendre – user180089 Jul 8 '16 at 17:00

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