Imagine you have a friend who has very generously offered to drive you to the airport in the morning. Your flight however is delayed and it turns out you really don't need that drive until the afternoon. When you inform your friend of this, he suggests you hire a taxi instead, since he was planning to take a nap after lunch.

I'm looking for a word or phrase that captures the contrast between someone's generosity and their inflexibility in how they are generous. I don't necessarily want to imply that these restrictions on their generosity are unreasonable, just surprising, given that generosity is so often paired with a desire to accommodate.

The archetypal example is probably parents who are willing to spend a fortune on a lavish wedding for their daughter, but make a stink when that daughter requests some small thing that they do not see as essential.

closed as off-topic by Drew, tchrist Nov 5 '17 at 19:24

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  • 1
    On the other side of the coin "beggars can't be choosers" comes to mind – Andrey Nov 3 '17 at 14:11
  • You say "generosity is so often paired with a desire to accommodate," but I'm not sure that's true. Could it be that there's not such a word because, for many people, this connotation doesn't exist? – Rodney Atkins Nov 3 '17 at 15:52
  • Sorry, Parker, and anyone should be able to see that your example is ridiculous. What you call inflexibility seems to be simply the limit of the generosity offered. Do you see no difference? – Robbie Goodwin Nov 3 '17 at 21:44
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    It's their time and money, whether or not you agree with how they spend it. – Xanne Nov 4 '17 at 6:45

The balance between the willingness to do good, but the unwillingness to be truly generous is expressed in the adjective parsimonious.

Pierce Egan uses it in such a way in 'Finish to the Adventures etc'

Through the rigidity and parsimonious behaviour of his father, Jem was kept amazingly short of cash . . .

The father did his duty and provided, but in a parsimonious manner, strictly controlling the expenditure on his own terms, rather than on the needs of his son. That is what 'parsimony' expresses, in my understanding of its usage.

True generosity is a response to someone's needs. But parsimony is all to do with the desires and motives of the giver.

Merriam-Webster :-

b :the quality or state of being stingy The charity was surprised by the parsimony of some larger corporations.

OED-3 (subscription required) :-

a. Of a person: characterized by or using parsimony; tight-fisted, mean. In early use also in positive sense: thrifty, frugal; (of a person's expenditure) economical, sparing. Cf. parsimony n. 1a, 1b.


They may be said to have boundaries.

boundary noun 1.1 (often boundaries) A limit of something abstract, especially a subject or sphere of activity. - ODO

The word is used in the sense of limits people place over what they will give. It doesn't necessarily mean that the person is generous, just that they are intentional about what they are providing. When used in the context of a generous person, it provides that means of capturing the contrast you're looking for between their generosity and their inflexibility.

Here are some usage examples:

  • 10 Way to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries - PsychCentral.com

  • Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. - wikipedia

  • Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life - Henry Cloud and John Townsend


What you are asking is related to human nature.

People are animals that have mixed emotions, which is why it can be difficult to predict accurately what might be their next actions.

Apart from some extreme situations, like they have gone bananas, or they might have shit in their mind,

people are capricious or self-centered sometimes, especially rich and powerful people .

A boss will never want to be predicted by his employee.

A superior always hates to be ordered by his subordinates even if they might be correct.

In your case, your generous friend, or your Dad would like to show his generosity in the manner of his choosing rather than based on what you really need.

People like to be having a fame of being generous while they still have the last say.

capriciously generous



governed or characterized by caprice : IMPULSIVE, UNPREDICTABLE

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English characterized by sudden changes in attitude or behaviour; unpredictable; impulsive

Therefore, in my opinion, capriciously generous suits your situation.

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