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What are some idioms that would describe a scenario where two people agree on an idea- but for very contrasting reasons?

Scenario 1: Two classmates support the demolition of an abandoned factory: Alice supports the demolition because it's going to be replaced with a public park. Her classmate, Sid, supports the demolition because he's loves explosions and is eager to watch the building get destroyed.

Scenario 2: Two people with opposite political views admire the mugshot of Donald Trump: The first person enjoys it because they dislike the former president and find his prosecution to be satisfying. The second person likes it because they support the former president and the mugshot boosted his poll numbers and enhanced his persona.

Both scenarios are semi-fictitious and meant for demonstration.

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    I don't think there is an established metaphor for this particular situation, but that doesn't mean you couldn't describe it with a suitable metaphor that would be easy for readers/listeners to understand. For example, you might say, "They took different trains to the same destination." One of Montaigne's essays (in Donald Frame's translation) is titled "By Diverse Means We Reach the Same Ends," which would also be apt.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 19:00
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    Do you mean they only agree on a single idea/like, or they ideologically agree on a wide range of topics (but for very different reasons)?
    – smci
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 20:56
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    I like parks and explosions; I'll take it. - Scenario 2 : Yeah, no.
    – Mazura
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 0:56
  • @smci Single idea. The metaphor or idiom describes a single instance where two entities agree on a topic for contrasting reasons. It doesn't always imply they become friends, forge an alliance or work together because of this agreement. I will note these types of scenarios seem rare and paradoxical.
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:03
  • I would have agreed with Sven, but I think the given examples are too far-fetched. Can you find some real examples, or at least some where the 'agreement' might be more than mere co-incidence? Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:32

8 Answers 8

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If two parties with a history of antagonism and mistrust between them come together to achieve a specific goal, you could say that there is an unholy alliance between them. Wikipedia states this was first used in the 19th century to describe the banding together of the Ottoman Empire and the West against the interests of Russia and the Balkan countries.

You can also make a case for Bootleggers and Baptists in either scenario. Quoting Wikipedia again, the phrase was used to describe a curious situation during the times of the Prohibition in the US where Baptists would preach against the sale and consumption of alcohol, thus reducing its legal availability, which directly benefited the bootleggers. In your examples, who the bootlegger is and who the baptist is probably depends on your perspective.

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    Bootleggers and Baptists is probably the closest metaphor to my question - well done! This scenario works because it doesn't imply the two parties are friends in the way "unholy alliance" might in certain contexts. Thanks!!!
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:10
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    Bootleggers and Baptists has the advantage, compared to the other great answers, that the two parties don't have to be aware that they agree: we can be observing that they agree. In unholy alliance, marriage of convenience, and strange bedfellows the parties are aware that they agree— and are unhappy about it.
    – djs
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 8:34
  • @djs Exactly!!!
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 20:02
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    Two roads converged in a yellow wood… It could happen. See 'Word describing multiple paths to the same abstract outcome' and links therein for similar contexts. Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 6:39
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Strange bedfellows might also fit the definition.

Early use in Shakespeare's The Tempest : “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

Dictionary.com has "Unlikely companions or allies; often used in the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows.”" and Merriam Webster goes for "an unlikely alliance of people or things".

Not a perfect match, as it's as much about the expectation of different views as it is about actually encountering them.

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  • This could work in a lot of instances. In the scenarios provided though, the two people are acquaintances and don't necessarily become partners. Thanks for the input!
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:40
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Marriage of convenience is sometimes used in this extended sense. Originally it means two people getting married for a reason other than love, e.g. for immigration status, tax, or to cover up their homosexuality. The Wikipedia article on marriage of convenience mentions both the literal meaning, and a wider meaning: "any partnership between groups or individuals for their mutual (and sometimes illegitimate) benefit, or between groups or individuals otherwise unsuited to working together". So you get newspapers writing things like "Putin and Kim's ominous marriage of convenience" (Financial Times, 13 September 2023) to use it in an extended sense for disparate people coming together when their interests coincide.

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  • Appreciate the input and the sources! This idiom is very close! Is there a way to rephrase it so it would mean a temporary marriage of convenience?
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:52
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All roads lead to [agreed-upon topic] may work. An issue is that it includes the word "all", not implying just two possible and different lines of thought.

  • "All roads [or paths] lead to an emotional image of Trump"

  • "All roads lead to demolition"

  • I don't particularly love this phrase due to the "all" vs "two" implication, but this phrase still should be noted.

A separate, yet far more common, phrase I hear is "You used the wrong formula to get the right answer," which reflects one party's viewpoint of the other party, at least if they are in direct opposition and not merely having different viewpoints.

  • One example is Alice not throwing Bob a birthday party because Alice forgot the birthday altogether, but Bob happens to absolutely hate birthday parties, so Bob is completely fine with it; this example hinges on the fact that it's commonly perceived as rudeness (in the USA) for friends to not acknowledge each other's birthdays in some way, meaning Alice would almost always be in the wrong, this being the unexpected exception.
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    Your second example is similar to a Type III error of giving the right answer for the wrong reason
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 11:28
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    I've also heard that been referred to as "offsetting errors". If you make two errors in differing directions such that they cancel eachother out. However it sounds like OP is looking for a word/phrase that doesn't make a value judgement about the positions involved, just that they differ and agree
    – Cruncher
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 12:53
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    This example is very concise and effortless - this can also work! Saying "Both roads lead to demolition" would fit the example.
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:31
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In courts where there are multiple judges (typically an appeal court), the judges can arrive at the same judgement for different reasons. This is known as a concurring opinion.

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    I’m pretty sure that just means they agree. Not that they had different means to the same ends. Sure they explain themselves but there’s often overlap isn’t there? I don’t think this is an idiom either Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 0:35
  • This may work. You are correct that courts come to the same conclusion for different reasons, but would concurring opinion imply the judges reasoning's are complementary or contrasting?
    – Cody
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:24
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    @Cody To my (untrained) eye, concurring opinions are usually subtly different. I would say they are generally complementary more than contrasting. My favourite decisions are always the ones with dissenting opinions (a minority of judges reach a different conclusion); these are (unsurprisingly) contrasting.
    – Xavier
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 7:41
  • Please add at least one supporting reference. Cornell Law School gives a very suitable definition of the collocation / compound noun. Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 14:26
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There is another one in addition to the other answers. "Even a broken clock is right twice a day." This saying relies on a particular view about what is right and wrong, and for that reason is a subjective statement.

In the example situations you gave, Alice might say that even though Sid [Bob?] doesn't care about redevelopment, the fact that he supports the demolition shows that he can be right some of the time - for even a broken clock is right twice a day.

For the Donald Trump example, they both agree that the mugshot is iconic, so the other person is right about that but wrong about the reason - for even a broken clock...

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    Hi greglo, I added a source for you even though it's a common expression along these lines. You're can always edit with other citations that support your answer. Welcome to the site, and do please take the tour.
    – livresque
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 6:56
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    "a broken clock is right twice a day" implies one of their reasoning is objectively wrong - which is not necessarily the case here.
    – smci
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 20:58
  • I think it implies that the other person is wrong about many things but right about this one. It depends a lot on the context as to whether or not it is suitable.
    – greglo
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 7:30
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"make common cause" works depending on how it's framed.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/make-common-cause-with

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I'm having trouble finding a real dictionary that attests this, but I believe this is violent agreement.

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    Can you find examples of the expression being used like this? That's the best way to support an answer that can't be backed up by dictionaries.
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 18:17
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    As source, you can add these ones: urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=violent%20agreement and wiki.c2.com/?ViolentAgreement
    – Eilia
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 10:03
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    I don't believe this fits. In "violent agreement", both parties would be arguing for each other's supporting points as well as their own, not just for the same conclusion. Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 17:38
  • I think you are correct, @MattJohnson-Pint
    – KTM
    Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 15:34

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