UPDATE: (2018-02-08) Pot-Calling-The-Kettle-Black (PCKB) reconsideration and another example:

The Wikipedia article on PCKB indicates something interesting. It says that originally, the term was Spanish (c. 17th Century) and most often used to indicate hypocrisy, because in those days, BOTH the pot and the kettle were made of a black cast iron, which I why I did not accept it from those who suggested it as an answer. However, the plot thickens ... I don't know if I never researched Wikipedia, if I missed the part I'm about to quote, or if it was added after I originally posted this, but essentially, Wikipedia goes on to say that PCKB has since the 1800's come to mean what I'm talking about (emphasis mine).

An alternative modern interpretation,[6][7] far removed from the original intention, argues that while the pot is sooty (being placed on a fire), the kettle is shiny (being placed on coals only); hence, when the pot accuses the kettle of being black, it is the pot's own sooty reflection that it sees: the pot accuses the kettle of a fault that only the pot has, rather than one that they share.

Have two possible meanings simultaneously is very tricky to deal with, because if you say PCKB to someone, some will think it is the meaning of hypocrisy, and others will think it is projection. However, both cases fail to convey the deliberate and devious manipulation that I'm talking about.

Another example of this scenario is the all-too-common occurrence of a female, usually a wife or girlfriend, calling the cops on the man in the relationship for abuse, after she was the one and only that was doing any abusing.

Therefore, for the most part I am abandoning my search for a term to describe this, because all the answers I received were great but none of them hit the target. This leads me believe that maybe no such word exists.

Thus, I shall have to coin one myself.

UPDATE: (2017-11-23) [Thanksgiving in the USA] I learned of another example just recently that may help sum this concept up in an easily understandable way: You are minding your own business then somebody punches you and yells "He hit me!"


Is there a term for when someone falsely accuses you of doing to them what they are in actuality doing to you?

When I was a child, my younger brother would punch me and then would tell my mom I punched him (which was in no way true). I know some would call this lying, but I'm looking for a more specific term. I suspect there may be something to do with logical, rhetoric, politics, or debate, but I'm not cognizant of the term if it exists. Perhaps something like the term "ad hominem"?

Any help is appreciated!

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    Turn things around, twist the facts... – hkBst Jul 21 '16 at 14:53
  • @Eric You accepted an answer to this question in August 2016. If you have more information which would help with a better answer, please consider posting a new question, referencing this one. Do not make substantial alterations to an existing question where there are already answers which would be invalidated by changing the question. Ask a new question. – Andrew Leach Feb 10 '17 at 18:26
  • (Your additions are available in the revision history here, they are not lost and can be crafted into a new question) – Andrew Leach Feb 10 '17 at 18:43
  • @AndrewLeach Ok. Thanks for clarifying that. BTW, is there a good place to propose new words on English Stack Exchange, or another SE forum? – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Feb 10 '17 at 20:56
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    It's the "Edited" text in the footer (in the web interface and the app). – Andrew Leach Nov 24 '17 at 7:00

One relevant term is "hypocrisy", "The practice of engaging in the same behaviour or activity for which one criticises another." (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hypocrisy) It does miss, though, the point where you're innocent; someone can justly indict another for vice and still be a hypocrite.

Another related term is "gaslighting", from a 1938 play, which means "To manipulate someone psychologically such that they question their own sanity." (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gaslight#English) That might be too specific, but trying to re-write fact that thoroughly often involves gaslighting.

The term "ad hominem", though, is a fallacy of logic, whereby you attack "an argument or factual claim by appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim." (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ad_hominem)

  • Thanks for the terms you provided. These all come close to the mark, but not quite all the way. – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Jul 27 '16 at 15:05
  • There would also be a strong element of (the informal sense of) irony involved - en.wiktionary.org/wiki/irony. You would expect the innocent to accuse the guilty of the crime, and not the other way around. – Non-Contradiction Jul 27 '16 at 15:34
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    None of the answers were perfect. This one was closest and had a lot of options so I selected it as the "correct" one. – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Aug 4 '16 at 20:42
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    "Gaslighting" was my immediate thought on reading the question. – Colin Fine Feb 9 '17 at 21:37
  • +1 for gaslighting. Don´t mind admitting that it is new to me. – Cascabel Feb 9 '17 at 22:24

Isn't this a type of 'projection' in the psychological sense? http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/coping/projection.htm

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    Welcome to English Language and Usage. We are looking for longer answers that provide a little more in the way of explanantion. – Cascabel Feb 9 '17 at 21:43
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    Projection was my first thought when reading the question. It's basically when someone has uncomfortable thoughts and/or feelings about himself and assigning them to another person. For example, a cheating husband accusing his wife of cheating is a type of projection. Or when Donald Trump accuses the media of lying...well, we won't go there. – iMerchant Feb 10 '17 at 23:10

This is a form of projection. Oftentimes people (generally the more unhealthy ones) will project their own shortcomings and missteps on others as a form of defense.

More accurately though the act of doing this is generally considered gaslighting. It is literally the adult equivalent of the "I know you are but what am I?"

It can become quite frustrating and demoralizing to the victim. Oftentimes people who are considered Narcissistic Personality, Sociopaths and Borderline Personality will employ this tactic.

  • Thanks @Jackson! That doesn't quite cover the nuance of it, though gaslighting is closer in meaning than any others except PCTKB (pot-calling-the-kettle-black). I really wish those who answered before would have delved deeper in its meaning -- I researched it, but it didn't seem quite right. But, through various circumstances, the term has become more clear to me in the intervening year, and now I quite understand that gaslighting is indeed closer to the term I've been searching for. Thanks again for your comment! – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 May 25 '17 at 17:50

Check this idiom: The pot calling the kettle black

From Wikipedia: The phrase "The pot calling the kettle black" is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

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    OP said falsely accuse. I think this answer is good but misses that aspect? – ķ̢̫̬̺͚̻͚̹̙̔̎ͣ͆͛͛ Jul 22 '16 at 1:36
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    @k1eran Correct. This answer like the ones suggest by @Non-Contradiction come close, but miss the part about the person being accused being totally innocent. I will hold out a little longer. If anyone knows a concise term for this I'm confident it will be English Stack Exchange – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Jul 27 '16 at 15:08

I understand exactly what you mean, and your frustration in not having a proper answer. Someone that KNOWINGLY & deliberetly puts you on the defensive & on your heels by accusing you for something that they are guilty of, thus the guilty person is taking the focus off of themselves. A deliberate manipulation. I’m not sure if “gaslighting” is specific enough to describe this ruthless tactic. “Pot calling the kettle black” is more Hypocrisy (often unknowing that they are being a hypocrite) & more importantly does not covey that the accusation is deliberate & meant to mislead. The same goes for “projection” which is unconcious and not deliberate, concious strategy. I would bet there is a specific word for this in German!

  • IKR! I learned of another example just recently that sums it up in an easily understandable way: You are minding your own business then somebody punches you and yells "He hit me!" Thanks for your comment and it's good to have somebody who understands what I'm getting at. If you find that German word let me know! :) – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Nov 23 '17 at 21:04

I believe the latin term "Tu Quoque" may be apropos....! ;-)

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    I like what you suggest. But please explain your answer. We do not welcome one-liners. – NVZ Jan 25 '18 at 19:19
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    Seconded. I would like to hear more. – Nigel J Jan 25 '18 at 20:14
  • Thanks for your answer. Tu Quoque is not correct because I am not talking about hypocrisy. This is not a situation where both are guilty, and that has been clearly explained in the post. -1 For failing to explain your answer, and mostly for failing to read the post and previous answers thoroughly before responding. – Eric Hepperle - CodeSlayer2010 Feb 8 '18 at 21:49

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