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Is there a word that describes a gift that you give to someone that is actually more a gift to yourself?

For example, gifting your partner tickets to a show for an artist that you like more than they do. Or gifting your kid a smartphone so that you can get a hold of them or keep track of them as you wish.

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5 Answers 5

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If you're willing to settle for an adjective, I would call that a self-serving gift: a gift that is intended to serve your own interests above that of the actual receiver.

Per M-w.com, self-serving is:

serving one's own interests often in disregard of the truth or the interests of others

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It's not a single word (I upvoted @Hellion's answer for that), but I use the phrase

he got me just what he always wanted

or

she got me just what she was hoping for

to describe this practice, altering pronouns as appropriate. Just be very cautious about substituting in the pronoun you!

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I don't think there is such a word. I say this because it's a pretty common phenomenon, and what people always say is a variation on the full sentence "That was really a gift for himself." (Or herself.)

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I had a friend from New Hampshire who used to call such a gift "a truck." A child of the 1970's, she used it in my presence throughout the '90's. I've not been able to find corroborating sources for this precise usage. As this friend is no longer with us, I can only imagine where she picked it up or from where she derived it. My best guess is that it may have been related to an archaic definition of truck (see third and fourth definition at Merriam-Webster.com), "barter or exchange." As in, a gift that is less a gift than it is truck--that is, something given in exchange for the use of the so-called gift.

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  • Her usage may have originated from a personal family story. Picture a very young boy long ago giving his mother a toy truck for a holiday gift; then everyone in the family started referring to such gifts as "trucks". If it happened in a prior generation to hers, she might never have learned the backstory, and just assumed it was common usage of the word. Commented May 29, 2018 at 23:21
  • Well, a gift that appears better suited to someone else would be one I'd want no truck with.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 22:38
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Our family for decades have called giving a gift that you really want a "Pete's Cap." None of us can remember who originated the term, but it is still used by all of us.

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