I came across the phrase, ‘stay true to type in a spat’ in the following sentence of the Washington Post’s article (July 27) titled, “Tim Pawlenty struggles to step out of Michele Bachmann’s shadow”.

Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann are staying true to type in a spat between their presidential campaigns: He offers a cautious slap over her lack of executive experience, and she smacks back with dramatic comparisons between him and President Obama. This is more or less how it has always been for the two Republican lawmakers from Minnesota, where Bachmann’s passion and conviction outshone Pawlenty’s more cautious, methodical ways from the moment she stormed the state legislature nearly a decade ago.

I know the meaning of ‘stay true to,’ but I’m at a loss to judge whether ‘type’ here is a noun meaning ‘stay true to their own types (or styles)’ or used as a verb as ‘type in.’

Although I’m inclined to interpret ‘stay true to type in a spat ‘means tenaciously adhere to their own styles (in the spat between them), I’m not sure. Is it ‘stay true to type (in a spat)’ or ‘stay true to type in (a spat)? In net, What is the exact meaning of the line,“Pawlenty and Bachmann are staying true to type in a spat between their presidential campaigns?

  • It is the former - tenaciously adhere to... Jul 28, 2011 at 10:37
  • 2
    I don't read it as tenacity, to me it implies that they are trapped in the same mould they have been in since they entered politics.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jul 28, 2011 at 10:42

3 Answers 3


I think what you're missing is that “true to type” is actually an expression. The New Oxford American Dictionary says:

true to form (or type): being or behaving as expected (true to form, they took it well).

So, it is: (staying (true to type)) in (a spat between their presidential campaigns).

  • @F'x So it’s neither ‘tenaciously adhered to’ as I and Matt Ellen thought nor ‘trapped in the mould’ as 27sg suggested, but ‘behaving as expected’? Jul 28, 2011 at 21:00
  • I think it casts them as somewhat rigid politicians, but no more than that…
    – F'x
    Jul 28, 2011 at 21:51
  • 1
    @Yoichi, yes "behaving as expected" is a good interpretation. "Consistent with people of their kind" is also a way of interpreting the phrase "true to type".
    – mgkrebbs
    Jul 29, 2011 at 18:22
  • @mgkrebbs.I found a good example of ‘(be / stay) true to type / character' in Time magazine recently: “Rupert and Wendi Murdoch were true to character Tuesday when she went from the statuesque, socialite wife of a media mogul to a protective spouse with a steady right hook.” Aug 9, 2011 at 9:11

Commonly the urgencies of a fight cause a change in behavior or reveal character traits that are not evident under more ordinary conditions.

The expression here indicates that this did not occur. The two politicians retained the same style even in an argument.

The intended conclusion would be that these traits (passion and conviction counterpoising caution) come from their true character, and are not a facade devised by speechwriters.


Meaning of "Stay true to type in a spat" means to behave or fight in a spat exactly the same way as it was expected. "Stay true to type/ form" means to behave exactly in the same way as someone expect

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