What do we call a person who keeps switching his stance on a topic during a discussion involving various sentences. What I mean is the speaker rejects something while accepting it indirectly. "Inconsistent" seems really close in a general sense. But he rejects it directly and again accepts it indirectly ( and I don't know he realizes that or not) again and again during a discussion.

I want it to have a neutral connotation as the person seems to be confused with his own ideas yet claiming to be right but we never know what are his intentions. Also it would be nice have a "politically correct" word for this.

I am not able to phrase the exact sentence because it is from another language and I need an English word for this activity/person. So every one is welcome to edit the question and add appropriate example sentences.

  • Consider giving us an approximate translation of the sentences in question.
    – msouth
    Oct 7, 2016 at 15:14

8 Answers 8


Someone who rejects a position and accepts it in the next breath, even if only indirectly, and fails to acknowledge a change of heart, is inconsistent. If they keep alternating stances again and again then they’re still inconsistent. We could say they’re hopelessly inconsistent or serially inconsistent; seriously inconsistent too, but serially is more to the point.

If that person firmly believes what they say and does not realise their inconsistency at all we’ll have to leave it at that. But if they are aware of the mere possibility of inconsistency and keep doing it then such person may be a bullshitter in the sense Princeton Professor Harry G. Frankfurt defined in On Bullshit (Princeton University Press, 2005). Here’s from a review at Amazon.com

Bullshitting, as he [Professor Harry G. Frankfurt] notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

  • 1
    @thanks Jacinto for the answer. And I also think serially inconsistent is very close. And there may a better word...
    – Polar Bear
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:32

Such a person is called a flip-flopper, especially in politics.

  • Is there a rule around here that, when the question's body is unclear, it is alright to answer the question's title? :) (The body seems to refer to some inconsistency within a single sentence.)
    – Řídící
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:18
  • @Keepthesemind I only found the example strange, the rest kinda added up
    – Helmar
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:25
  • @Helmar Maybe you're right. I kinda assumed that the example is what the OP really meant, and the rest was just the rest. Maybe I'm wrong.
    – Řídící
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:27
  • @Keepthesemind you may also be right. We might find out after an edit. :)
    – Helmar
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:32
  • @Keepthesemind: the question has been edited, and it turns out that their wasn't necessary for the inconsistency to be within a single sentence. The usual advice I'd give is to not answer if the question is unclear, but it is technically allowed by the site mechanics, so it's "all right" in the sense that it's a valid strategy of answering. If you do answer an unclear question, you should be prepared to get downvotes or to edit your answer if it turns out the question was not what asking you thought it was.
    – herisson
    Aug 25, 2016 at 21:40

In terms of politics, one who repeatedly changes their stance is indeed a flip-flopper.

I would also like to add fickle:

changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection.

I feel that outside of politics, this word would be more common for the definition you are looking for.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. Since this site strives to provide objective answers it would be great if you could add sources to your answer. Have a look at the site tour and the help center to find out about good questions.
    – Helmar
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:29

Hypocrite — a person who feigns some publicly approved or desirable attitude especially one whose private life , statements, or opinions belie his or her public statements.


Please stop with the false indignation, you hypocrite.

Other words are dissembler, pretender, deceiver, and pharisee.


I think self-contradictory might be a good description.

From dictionary.com:

self-contradiction noun

  1. an act or instance of contradicting oneself or itself.

  2. a statement containing contradictory elements.

You wanted something with a neutral connotation. I think, in this case, it can be neutral based on your phrasing. Something like

Your argument seems to be self-contradictory to me, because in this sentence you say X which seems to imply you are against Z, but in this other sentence you say Y which seems to imply you are in favor of Z.

If you simply state that the person's argument is self-contradictory that could be considered negative because it implies that they don't know how to construct a logical argument. Or, at least, in the crowd I run in, it would be considered negative. But if you phrase it with "it seems to me" or "I don't understand because X" you are opening it up to your own misinterpretation and asking for clarification.

Another word you might consider is ambiguous.

From dictionary.com:

ambiguous adjective

  1. open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations; equivocal: an ambiguous answer.

  2. Linguistics. (of an expression) exhibiting constructional homonymity; having two or more structural descriptions, as the sequence Flying planes can be dangerous.

  3. of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify: a rock of ambiguous character.

  4. lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct: an ambiguous shape; an ambiguous future.

If you are trying to be neutral, again, phrasing would help. I think "ambiguous" is much less "negative by default"--more of a declaration that the person's argument is not completely clear rather than faultily constructed. But I would still say something like

This argument seems ambiguous to me, because in this sentence you say X which seems to imply you are against Z, but in this other sentence you say Y which seems to imply you are in favor of Z.


Not sure if this is the situation you describe, but if a speaker is deliberately switching positions within an argument, simply for the sake of the argument, then he or she is being a devil’s advocate:

a devil’s advocate is someone who, given a certain point of view, takes a position they do not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further.

Note that depending on how this is done, this can contribute positively to the conversation, or can be used to disrupt/upset/troll the opponent.

  • thanks for answer @BradC . Is devil's advocate a neutral word?
    – Polar Bear
    Aug 25, 2016 at 21:49
  • 1
    Yes, in most contexts it is neutral, it's simply a description of a rhetorical strategy. Some exceptions are worthy of mention: (1) Taking a "devil's advocate" position on a clearly offensive/sensitive topic: "sure I believe that women should be allowed to vote, but just for the sake of discussion...." Doing this risks people thinking you really hold those ideas. (2) People claim they were just being a "devil's advocate" after the fact (after they lose the argument, or after their view is shown to be wrong/offensive). "No, I don't really think that, I was just playing devil's advocate"
    – BradC
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:03

You may call that person a vacillator.


vacillator NOUN

Example sentences:
‘He mocked his challenger as a vacillator who could spend the whole time debating himself.’
‘They view him as a vacillator whose tactical shifts in the face of foreign pressure have been unpardonable.’

vacillate VERB

[NO OBJECT] Waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.

‘I vacillated between teaching and journalism’
‘It's difficult to say, but indeed I am vacillating between the two.’


vacillate verb

2 : to waver in mind, will, or feeling : hesitate in choice of opinions or courses

  • vacillator noun

Example: vacillated for so long that someone else stepped in and made the decision



1.2 [figurative] A person who changes their opinions or behaviour according to the situation.
‘voters have misgivings about his performance as a political chameleon’

Churchill, for example, was a political chameleon.


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