a psychological tug of war

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nagomi

Senior Member
Korean
Let me set the scene: A indirectly ridiculed B in a sarcastic way. B also responded in kind. It goes on for an extended period of time and they are in an socially equal position like friends. This is characterized by neither of them becoming aggressive outwardly. Or sometimes it might not involve any verbal communication, just being displayed in gestures, for example, giving a silence treatment or having a chip on one's shoulder, or readily provoking the other person.


What do you call this situation as a whole, preferably, in one expression?

I assume there's no such an expression as "a psychological tug of war", but I'm suggesting that to help you get the idea of what I'm trying to ask. Or there's another: a nerve war (referring to fight involving "one's nerve" just figuratively) Or one more: "battle of spirits." These are the expressions that people use in my language.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I can't think of particular set expressions that cover the sort of thing you're talking about. "A psychological tug-of-war" or "a battle of wills/personalities" seem normal to me and easy to understand.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Let me set the scene: A indirectly ridiculed B in a sarcastic way. B also responded in kind.
    ->
    Or one more: "battle of spirits."
    A battle of wits is a current phrase but this means that each reply should be cleverer than the last.
    What do you call this situation as a whole, preferably, in one expression?
    Written of verbal communications only: A war of words.

    a nerve war
    There is a phrase "a war of nerves" but that refers to increasing tension until one side either attacks or gives in.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Tug of war" is not a good metaphor. "Tug of war" is a game where two teams pull on a rope. It is a contest of strength and strategy, in which opponents never attack each other, or even touch each other.

    You are describing a situation where two opponents attack each other. The attacks are insults rather than physical attacks, but they are attacks on a person. And there is only one person on each side, with no other targets. So this is a "duel" or a "struggle", not a "war" or a "battle".

    What do you call this situation as a whole, preferably, in one expression?
    I don't know of any common phrase for this ("what do you call this") in AE.
     

    nagomi

    Senior Member
    Korean
    "Tug of war" is not a good metaphor. "Tug of war" is a game where two teams pull on a rope. It is a contest of strength and strategy, in which opponents never attack each other, or even touch each other.

    You are describing a situation where two opponents attack each other. The attacks are insults rather than physical attacks, but they are attacks on a person. And there is only one person on each side, with no other targets. So this is a "duel" or a "struggle", not a "war" or a "battle".



    I don't know of any common phrase for this ("what do you call this") in AE.
    That was a very nice insight into types of war. Thank you.
     
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