Say Person B is holding an exclusive party. Person A really wants to go, but Person B denied to invite them. Person A then starts telling all his/her friends that he/she didn't want to go to Person B's "lame" party. Person A wants to go, but is pretending he/she doesn't to save face. Is there a word to describe this?


4 Answers 4


Sour grapes, after one of Aesop's fables; here's the version from the old Harvard Classics:

ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”


  • 4
    The image of Vulpes vulpes as marauder of vineyards is found not only here in Aesop but also in the Song of Solomon and in the ekphrasis of Theocritus's Idyll #1. I have never encountered it in more modern literature, though the American native grape species, Vitis labrusca, is often called the fox grape. I wonder if this was a falsely attributed behavior like Pliny's libel on the ostrich, or if viticulture has adapted to eliminate the threat, or if foxes have just grown too rare to cause much damage. Apr 14, 2017 at 3:03
  • I can probably use this as "Looks like this is a case of the sour grapes", so this works perfectly. Thanks! Though, I'll probably need to explain (in person) or link (via web) since its meaning may not be immediately obvious.
    – Drew
    Apr 14, 2017 at 15:48
  • @BrianDonovan It's not certain that the Solomonic marauder is a fox: it may be a jackal. Apr 15, 2017 at 0:07
  • One does wonder whether foxes would actually have a taste/desire for grapes, but it's hard to think of a better animal that can't fly.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:00
  • 2
    @Drew - The term "sour grapes" is reasonably well understood in the US, even though many people may not know of the fable.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:01

In psychology, it's called rationalization.

The most commonly used defense mechanism, in which an individual justifies ideas, actions, or feelings with seemingly acceptable reasons or explanations. It is often used to preserve self-respect, reduce guilt feelings, or obtain social approval or acceptance. - - Medical Dictionary.

Examples of rationalization (from Wikipedia)

  • "I didn't get the job that I applied for, but I really didn't want it in the first place."

Some rationalizations take the form of a comparison. Commonly this is done to lessen the perception of an action's negative effects, to justify an action, or to excuse culpability:

  • "At least [what occurred] is not as bad as [a worse outcome]."
  • In response to an accusation: "At least I didn't [worse action than accused action]."
  • As a form of false choice: "Doing [undesirable action] is a lot better than [a worse action]."
  • Related to reaction formation as well, though in the scenario the OP describes, probably the desire to attend the party is conscious. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_formation
    – user7065
    Apr 14, 2017 at 8:49
  • Rationalization is not the best answer, because it covers much more ground than was asked for. For example, spending someone else's money for a personal item and making up some "logical" reason for doing so is also rationalization.
    – WGroleau
    Apr 15, 2017 at 5:17

Saving Face Going along with something to protect your dignity, not lose respect with peers and to not be excluded societally.


Yes, in psychology there is a description for this behaviour. It's called:

"eliminating a cognitive dissonance".

This is actual a self-preserving mechanism or a coping strategy. It allows us to handle situations that we have little or no control over.

  • I would -1, this isn't a single word or even a single term so it doesn't address OP's question.
    – user231500
    Apr 15, 2017 at 18:45

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