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I know the difference between the words, my question is more on the lines of, if I choose to pursue a profession, and I want to talk about how painful it is yet I continue doing it, then how would I address the profession as. Is the profession sadistic because it is inflicting pain on me, or is it masochistic because I am choosing to pursue that profession

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I do not think that an abstract noun, such as "profession" can, in most senses, be described sensibly using either of the words "sadistic", or "masochistic". Those words describe the behaviour of an actor; that is, of an animate, sentient being. So I would say that the person (you) is being masochistic.

Having thought quite a bit about it, it seems to me that the only way in which it might (contextually) make sense to talk about a profession having the qualities of either masochism or sadism, is when it is very clear that you are actually talking about the individuals who are members of the profession. In that way, the usage poses the same individual-vs-collection issue that is raised by whether to treat collective words like "majority" as grammatically singular nouns or as plural nouns.

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  • I think you can transfer the quality of the actors to the profession. For instance, some might think of dentistry as a sadistic profession. – Barmar Sep 18 '20 at 7:22

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