30

In Portuguese there is an expression that says:

"Essa pessoa é de lua."

Literally "this person's mood changes according to the moon", which means that nobody can predict that person's mood.

Is there an equivalent expression or similar to this in English?

When someone is angry one day and very peaceful the next day...

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Oct 30 '16 at 15:40

12 Answers 12

49

Such a person is said to be mercurial or capricious.

mercurial: likely to change your mood or opinion unexpectedly

capricious: suddenly and unexpectedly changing your opinion or behaviour without any good reason

An equivalent expression might be, "He/she is as changeable as the weather."

29

Though there are many individual words that might capture the Portuguese phrase, common English phrases for variability are:

changes with the wind

as temperamental as a prima donna

  • Upvoted because the original question asked for an expression, not a single word. – Charles Burge Oct 7 '16 at 18:07
  • 3
    Prima donna not, as I used to think pre-Madonna! – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 8 '16 at 13:25
  • 2
    I was surprised the provided links just go to google.com; I expected at least links to an idiom dictionary/reference if you didn't have time to quote the definitions? – k1eran Oct 8 '16 at 14:35
  • @k1eran I don't know if an online site for phrases (please tell if you know one). I was just trying to show examples of them in context. – Mitch Oct 8 '16 at 22:11
  • 1
    prima donna implies not only variability of temper but also, and I'd say primarily, insistence on deference, what nowadays is sometimes called ‘entitlement’. “I'm the star so you will cater to my whims!” – Anton Sherwood Oct 9 '16 at 3:19
13

an "unpredictable and volatile temperament" comes to mind.

volatile - adj. (of persons) disposed to caprice or inconstancy; fickle; mercurial.

Examples:

  • "Warburg grew up in a conservative home environment. Early on he demonstrated an unstable, unpredictable and volatile temperament."

  • "She's unpredictable as weather."

  • "Agrippa's kinsman already alluded to above, did somehow run afoul of Nero's unpredictable and volatile temperament"

  • " you may need to wear protective gear if your dog has an unpredictable and volatile temperament"

There is also a traditional comparison (credit to tchrist) which fits perfectly: "as changeable as the moon" - "Her mood is changeable as the moon"

  • The frequent and obvious changes in the position of the moon, in the area of its enlightened surface, and in the quantity of light reflected there from the earth, are so obvious that they are proverbial; and to say of anything that it is as changeable as the moon, is to mark it with a note of instability in the extreme.
  • 2
    Historically the phrase changeable as the moon for this sense has also seen currency in the literary registers of English. This is what I gather the Portuguese turn of phrase is alluding to. – tchrist Oct 7 '16 at 1:54
  • @tchrist Agreed. I'll add it. – Centaurus Oct 7 '16 at 2:04
  • 'temperamental' is another single word for 'volatile', but like the latter, the formal emphasizes the negative swing of mood. – Mitch Oct 7 '16 at 12:44
7

To add a gloss to the excellent answers offered by members of our community of wordsmiths, I propose to offer the word moonstruck which seems to cover the OP's request for a luna reference to the Portuguese expression.

moonstruck (Merriam-Webster): affected by or as if by the moon: as

a: mentally unbalanced b: romantically sentimental c: lost in fantasy or reverie (Merriam-Webster)

Note: As an additional answer for the OP's consideration, I offer the words lunatic and lunacy.

From M-W's definition of moonstruck one might infer that such a person is likely to exhibit mood behavioral patterns of the type the OP characterizes as "unstable and [changeable] at random". The M-W's definition of moonstruck enables us to link the OP's reference to moon and then cross-reference it to the word lunatic which Wikipedia informs us is an "informal term referring to a person who is considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish or unpredictable (my emphasis), conditions once attributable to lunacy...[which] derives from [Latin] lunaticus meaning 'of the moon' or moonstruck (my emphasis)".

6

The word fickle means

likely to change your opinion or your feelings suddenly and without a good reason (Cambridge)

There seem to be a few similes using it, and the best one may depend on the culture of your hearers. As a British English speaker, I like

as fickle as the weather

(7.8k ghits) but people from English-speaking countries which aren't small temperate islands may have difficulty associating fickleness with the weather.

  • 1
    I'm not sure other English-speaking countries would have trouble with the phrase: changeability in weather seems common across much of the US. The link also includes Melbourne, presumably in Australia rather than Florida. – AndyT Oct 7 '16 at 15:57
3

Such a person can be called moody/temperamental.

M-W:

moody adjective

: having moods that change often

She's a moody woman—she can be happy one minute and angry the next.

temperamental adjective

: unpredictable in behavior or performance

The actor is known for being temperamental.

3

The Jargon File, a dictionary of slang used in certain English-speaking information technology subcultures, defines "phase of the moon" similarly to the Portuguese usage that you describe:

Used humorously as a random parameter on which something is said to depend. Sometimes implies unreliability of whatever is dependent, or that reliability seems to be dependent on conditions nobody has been able to determine. “This feature depends on having the channel open in mumble mode, having the foo switch set, and on the phase of the moon.”

So in English, one may say “Whether he'll be in a mood to accept that deal depends on how well he slept, what he ate last night, the phase of the moon...”

But when applying moon metaphors to women, take care to avoid negative stereotypes about the menstrual cycle.

  • And is it used normally in your conversations? – Adriano Oct 8 '16 at 16:32
  • It fits exactly in the meaning. – Adriano Oct 8 '16 at 16:32
2

If the changes are with regard to commitment, resolve, opinion, etc, then "flaky" is what you're looking for (an unreliable person).

1

The closest adjectives which reflect "this person's mood changes according to the moon" are probably lunatic and moonish.

Lunatic is probably much stronger than your intented meaning, but moonish, according to the Merriam-Webster, simply means:

influenced by the moon

It should be noted, however, that the Oxford Dictionary reports moonish as obsolete.

1

I would say that their mood changes with the tide. That (indirectly) keeps the lunar reference.

  • It would be great if you could find a reference to indicate that this is commonly used that way. – Helmar Oct 10 '16 at 13:35
0

One saying I’m familiar with is something similar to:

His mood changed like quicksilver.

because of the properties of liquid metal mercury, also known as quicksilver.

For example, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English writes in its definition of quicksilver:

literary something that is like quicksilver changes or moves quickly in a way that you do not expect

His mood changed like quicksilver.

-2

If extreme changes were what you had in mind, perhaps werewolf would suit:

noun were·wolf \ˈwir-ˌwu̇lf, ˈwer-, ˈwər-\

in stories : a person who sometimes changes into a wolf especially when the moon is full

Werewolves become notoriously disagreeable in the light of the full moon.

  • 1
    Creative. upvote. – Tony Ennis Oct 7 '16 at 23:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.