President Trump reportedly called Angela Merkel "stupid."

Mr Trump, 74, allegedly called Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, “stupid” and Theresa May “a fool” over Brexit, officials told CNN.

(The Times, "Delusional Trump called Merkel stupid, officials claim", July 1, 2020)

Quite the contrary, Angela Merkel earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry in 1986 (source), and is arguably not stupid. For the purpose of this question, let us assume that Trump is stupid, but is not aware of this.

Is there an idiom or phrase for someone misapplying an attribute to someone else, while the speaker should have more aptly apply it to himself? (I'm looking for an idiom or metaphor that an observer could apply to the speaker.)

"Although Trump called Merkel 'stupid', it seems to be an instance of __________"

"When I was in Africa, a street urchin called a better off African 'poor.' This is a great example of _________."

Idioms and phrases that are close

The idiom The Pot Calling the Kettle Black would apply only if both Trump and Merkel were stupid.

The psychological term displacement includes

A characteristic that one perceives in oneself but seems unacceptable is instead attributed to another person. This is essentially the mechanism of psychological projection.

For displacement to apply, Trump must perceive that he is stupid.

The psychological term delusional is what The Times applied.

A delusion is a belief that is clearly false and that indicates an abnormality in the affected person’s content of thought.... The key feature of a delusion is the degree to which the person is convinced that the belief is true.


Delusion is a good word, a strong word, but it only goes one direction (namely his belief about Merkel). It does not address whether Trump mistakenly thinks he is smarter than Merkel.

  • This seems like a somewhat interpretative question. Without getting into any specific politics, how is someone supposed to know that one person is stupid and another isn't? Short of applying objective criteria, such as an IQ test and terminology based on the range into which a person's results fall, how do you determine this? I'm wondering if stupidity is a poor example of a quality to be considering. Or are you looking for an idiom that can only apply to stupidity and not, for instance, to just one kettle or pot being black? Jul 3, 2020 at 16:13
  • 2
    The term can be projection: He projects onto her what he himself is.
    – Lambie
    Jul 3, 2020 at 16:14
  • Agree with @Lambie. Re displacement, Trump might perceive stupidity in himself but finds it unacceptable, i.e., he doesn't accept it. He then puts it on someone else. Delusion also isn't that bad. In calling Merkel stupid, he is implicitly considering himself smart. You could look at it as going in two directions. It's all relative. I'm not endorsing or not either of these options, just sayin'. Jul 3, 2020 at 16:21
  • 1
    You are yourself doing the displacement by attributing to Trump that which you feel about him. He has never questioned her education only interpreting how rationally she is acting and drawing that into question. You are ignoring this topic in search of careful, precise and misplaced means of criticizing Trump. The phrase you are looking for is; "No, you are!" a standard of schoolyards everywhere.
    – Elliot
    Jul 3, 2020 at 16:21
  • @JasonBassford For the sake of argument, let's say that Trump is aware of opinion that he has done stupid things and is perceived by some as being stupid. // My original post has an attribute of being poor as well. I have met a dirt-poor child who called those better off "poor." // I agree that it can be problematic as to whether someone can know they're stupid. I have tone-deaf friends who realize that they are tone-deaf, but only because other people have told them. Admittedly this takes some perceptiveness.
    – rajah9
    Jul 3, 2020 at 16:23

2 Answers 2


Matthew 7:5, Good News Version {BibleHub}:

  • You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

But I believe the Speaker was speaking to everyone.

  • Excellent answer, as always. Do you think hypocrite refers to a behavior rather than an attribute? For example, I think Trump would be hypocritical if he recommended masks but did not wear them himself, as this is an inconsistent behavior. He does not practice what he preaches. But I don't think he could be a hypocrite for being stupid while calling others stupid, as this is an attribute. But I could be straining out a gnat in order to swallow a camel.
    – rajah9
    Jul 3, 2020 at 18:42
  • This deals with the delusional (not realising that one oneself has the same problem to a greater extent) and judgemental (castigating the other) aspects, but is grounded in the reality that none of the people addressed was/is perfect. // Dictionary.com defines 'hypocrite': 'a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.' It doesn't major on behaviours, but few can accurately discern attitude without manifestation. Jul 3, 2020 at 19:23

How about self-deluded?

From M-W:

self-deluded: deluded by oneself or having deluded beliefs concerning oneself

From Lexico:

self-deluded: Having deluded oneself (about something); suffering from self-delusion.

Trump is self-deluded in calling Merkel stupid. A street urchin is self-deluded in calling a better off African poor.

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