I am looking for a colloquial expression that denotes someone's behavior when they disregard the fact that they have lost an argument or that one has found a flaw in their logic or that they are plain wrong, and go on to present weak repostes to save face such as to blame the problem on outside influences or circumstances. I need a colloquialism because I guess in formal language you could say 'someone does something in bad faith' when they are being disingenuous or dishonest. I can think of 'grasping at straws'. Eg: John, stop grasping at straws, we know it wasn't the dog that knocked over the vase. Maybe there isn't one expression to cover all scenarios; just in case, as further aid the French might say someone is 'de mauvaise foi'. But it is said jokingly and not accusingly, to mean 'it's only too obvious what you're doing, just give up already!'

  • 3
    'When in a hole, stop digging' is used, but is not specific to the situation you describe (and has been given on ELU before). Sep 25 '16 at 21:15
  • Do you want an expression to describe the behavior, or something you can say to someone behaving that way? Because your description of the French phrase comes very close to the latter. It's idiomatic to say "Give it up already!" to someone who persists in the face of facts, logic, and/or common sense.
    – 1006a
    Sep 25 '16 at 22:50
  • @EdwinAshworth I like that, I think that exactly captures what I want to say
    – Arun
    Sep 26 '16 at 9:32
  • If they are not doing it to save face, they may have a psychological condition, cognitive dissonance---MW gives psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Sep 26 '16 at 21:19

John, is arguing on - refusing to throw in the towel, but we know it wasn't the dog that knocked over the vase.

Throw in the towel
- Give up, to avoid further punishment when facing certain defeat. - http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/throw-in-the-towel.html

  • 1
    This doesn't describe "being in denial about being proved wrong".
    – Laurel
    Sep 25 '16 at 23:54
  • @Laurel I think refusing to throw in the metaphorical towel, implies the protagonist thinks he can still win the fight or argument or whatever. If someone says he should throw it in, that someone is implying that the protagonist has no chance of winning.
    – k1eran
    Sep 26 '16 at 0:19
  • 1
    I think the phrase "refusing to throw in the towel" fits better.
    – Laurel
    Sep 26 '16 at 1:33
  • @Laurel agreed, so I've re-worked example sentence now.
    – k1eran
    Sep 26 '16 at 8:59

One in this situation may be said to refuse to desert or abandon a sinking ship, or perhaps simply refuse to abandon ship.

"John, stop refusing to abandon ship. We know it wasn't the dog that knocked over the vase.

If you agree with @EdwinAshworth's comment, I won't dig in my heels.

From The Free Dictionary:

dig in (one's) heels: to refuse to alter one's course of action or opinions; to be obstinate or determined / to refuse to do what other people are trying to persuade you to do, especially to refuse to change your opinions or plans

When John refuses to abandon his sinking ship, you could say:

"John, quit digging in your heels. We know it wasn't the dog that knocked over the vase.

  • 1
    I don't consider the metaphor stretches that far while retaining idiomaticity. Sep 25 '16 at 22:08

In British English, you could say

John, face it, we know it wasn't the dog that knocked over the vase.

It means 'face up to the truth'.


Persist in error. This is part of the quote to err is human... which goes back to Roman times, if not ancient Greek. Perhaps not all that common on the street but still accurate.


"Joe Bloggs is living in cloud cuckoo land. He just won't see reason and keeps boasting to his classmates that his professor will turn a blind eye to his flagrant plagiarism".

Living in cloud cuckoo land: To think that things are completely impossible, rather than understanding how things really are. (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • I think means the person is characteristically delusional, whereas here I mean maybe a one-off behaviour
    – Arun
    Sep 26 '16 at 9:30
  • @Arun There is no reason why "living in cloud cuckoo land" cannot be used to cover a one-off situation and, furthermore, the expression does not express or imply any clinical delusional trait or characteristic on the part of the person concerned. I think you maybe conflating your understanding of my answer with a description of someone as being "cuckoo" per se which Merriam-Webster Dictionary informs us is "a silly or crackbrained person", in other words quite possibly chronically delusional. Sep 26 '16 at 10:08
  • @Arun "Crackbrained": Merriam-Webster gives us as an example the following sentence-in-context: "Once a brilliant dancer, he died a crackbrain in a mental institution". I do not think the usage of "crackbrain" in this context has any connection with a crack-cocaine user. Sep 26 '16 at 10:25

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