What is the word for a person who freely uses an example, a quote, or a line of logic whenever it supports his own cause or argument, but sneezes at them if they are likely to undermine his cause or argument?

For example, person A says that four out five people do [whatever]. And whatever that is, it supports his argument. In another occasion, when he is presented with statistics he quotes Bertrand Russell's, “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.”

I guess there many general words that could describe this attitude, for example hypocrisy. But I am looking for a word (or perhaps an idiom or a phrase) that specifically focuses on this type of hypocrisy.

  • 1
    How does sneezing come into it? Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:25
  • @marcellothearcane A typo for "sneering"?
    – BoldBen
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 6:32
  • 4
    Merriam Webster: sneeze at: informal: to make light of—always used in negative statements to indicate something that is important or deserves attention.
    – blackened
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 6:39
  • 1
    Probably closest will be "two-faced, double-tongued, two-handed, double-dealing"
    – AMN
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 5:45
  • I suggest that belongs to philosophy, not language, as evidenced by the fact that such lengthy examples don't provide their own answer. Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 22:22

3 Answers 3


Calling such a person a sophist would be a fine choice. The relevant definition from my Canadian Oxford Dictionary is

A person who reasons with clever but fallacious arguments.

The practice would sophistry, defined as

The use of intentionally deceptive or specious arguments or reasoning, especially as a dialectic excercise.

And the argument itself would be a sophism, defined as

A plausible but false argument, especially one intended to deceive or display ingenuity in reasoning.

  • The definition of sophist does not sound like what I am looking for. In my example case, the arguments, taken in isolation, were not fallacious per se.
    – blackened
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:23
  • We need exactly the opposite of this. Try.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 10:52

A hypocrite is "a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings" (Merriam-Webster dictionary), so "hypocrite" doesn't fit your example.

Someone who does what you describe is being deceitful, dishonest, engaging in chicanery. Maybe you could also call them a sophist: "a person who reasons adroitly and speciously rather than soundly" (dictionary.com).

  • That is why he is a hypocrite—he consults to statistics when it supports his argument, but then contradicts himself by disregarding it.
    – blackened
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:32
  • 2
    I disagree. Hypocrisy is to do with actions, not words. If someone says they oppose such-and-such but then donates money to a group that promotes it, then they're being a hypocrite. That is, an action has to have social significance to be called hypocrisy. In your example, it is simply someone being an exasperating git in the way they argue with other people.
    – chigusa
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 5:51

I am not sure if there is a term for the person who engages in this fallacy, but the fallacy as described seems to be confirmation bias.

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