Better RFP Responses & Management
I’m Firm; You’re Obstinate; He’s a Pigheaded Fool

I’m Firm; You’re Obstinate; He’s a Pigheaded Fool

In rhetoric, emotive or emotional conjugation
mimics the form
of a grammatical conjugation of an irregular verb
to illustrate humans’ tendency
to describe their own behavior
more charitably than the behavior of others.

They’re also called Russell’s conjugations, after the British philosopher who featured them in a BBC radio broadcast: the one used in the title of this post, and at least these two . . .

I am righteously indignant,
You are annoyed,
He is making a fuss over nothing.

I have reconsidered the matter,
You have changed your mind,
He has gone back on his word.

I expect there’s a whole riff some stand-up comedian has done on this basic thought — If George Carlin didn’t, is it really too late? — but all I could find this morning was this quote from Yes, Minister:

It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?
I have an independent mind,
You are eccentric,
He is round the twist.

Seth’s blog this morning reminded me of these, because it’s on the difference between being picky and being difficult. Against my initial expectation, it wasn’t a Russell conjugation: “I have standards, You are picky, He is difficult.” No, it was about the difference between having consistent standards and not.

Picky people
have consistent preferences and standards.

Difficult people
change their preferences frequently,
and often in response to who is presenting to them
or the mood they’re in.

It’s pretty easy to figure out which makes for a better client or colleague.

That *is* pretty easy to figure. And being difficult in Seth’s sense has its own emotive conjugation:

I am flexible,
You are erratic,
He is incoherent.

I’ve certainly worked with difficult people on proposals, but me, I’m picky or, at worst, flexible. Yeah, that’s it. You?



  1. Jim+Taylor

    I’m frugal; she’s thrifty; he’s cheap.
    P.S. Love the example of writing words in alphabetical order; taking the instruction too literally!
    Jim T

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