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I am looking for a (possibly metaphorical!) word, preferably a noun, that captures the idea that something can be chosen according to criteria X, but will behave in a way that is either antithetical to X or orthogonal to X.

  • It does not have to be "negatively" different from X, so long as it is not the same as X.
  • It should not have the connotation of being a "rare" or "unusual" thing. (this rules out "anomaly" and "discrepancy")

E.g.:

This corporate branch is a _____: the branch was developed over the years to do sales and advertising, but the employees of the branch have chosen to spend more time on product development.

(note that this is not necessarily a negative thing).

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  • If you don't mind being a bit metaphoric ("flowery", even), you could consider maverick - a person who thinks and acts in an independent way, often behaving differently from the expected or usual way. Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 17:26
  • Good question. ... Racking The Brains ... ... ... ...
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 8:59
  • ... Racking The Brains ... ...
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 9:02
  • This corporate branch evolved in its own way. It is technically autoevolution, but that's a rather complicated word.
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 9:10
  • related perhaps - ell.stackexchange.com/questions/75376/…
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 11:51

3 Answers 3

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free agent macmillan

someone who is free to do what they want because they are not responsible for anyone else

As in:

This corporate branch acts as free agent: the branch was tasked over to do sales and advertising, but the employees of the branch have chosen to spend more time on product development.

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  • Almost there, but this is necessarily negative.
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 9:11
  • Free agency is not negative. It needs lexical/contextual help to take a negative meaning. I also think free radical would work. Something that is versatile in it's attachments or pursuits.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 11:57
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I'm not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but perhaps anomaly could get you closer to the word you're looking for? From the Oxford Dictionaries:

anomaly

NOUN

1 Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

‘there are a number of anomalies in the present system’
‘the position abounds in anomaly’

Or maybe divergence? Again, from the Oxford Dictionaries:

divergence

NOUN

1 The process or state of diverging.

‘the divergence between primates and other groups’

1.1 A difference or conflict in opinions, interests, wishes, etc.

‘a fundamental divergence of attitude’

You would probably want to reword it a bit to say This corporate branch has diverged from the norm...

And lastly, there is discrepancy. From the Oxford Dictionaries:

discrepancy

NOUN

An illogical or surprising lack of compatibility or similarity between two or more facts.

‘there's a discrepancy between your account and his’

So it would be This corporate branch is a discrepancy: the branch...

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Panda's thumb may be too esoteric a metaphor for your purpose. Pandas need to grip bamboo stalks to strip leaves off them. But pandas have only vestigial thumbs, useless for gripping. Instead they use their elongated wrist bones as thumbs to grip the bamboo.

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