Is there a significant difference in saying someone is ACTING like a bitch vs BEING a bitch?

I am using bitch is just an example. You may switch out bitch for whatever pejorative you like.

So, if you’re arguing with someone, and you say to them “Quit bitching at me” or “You’re being bitchy” is that the same thing as saying “You’re a bitch.”?

I was having this debate with my GF. We weren’t arguing or anything, but we were gossiping about another couple that tends to argue a lot. Sometime very publicly in front of friends. (I’m ashamed to admit. I like the theater of it all. In my defense, the couple has been married for over 20 years, so…)

This was basically the argument we witnessed:

Him: “You’re acting like a bitch!”

Her: “Don’t call me a bitch!”

Him: “I didn’t call you a bitch. I said you’re acting like one.”

(I chuckled a little on the inside. They are both a couple of loons.)

To me, the difference is like the two versions of “to be” verbs in Spanish: ser, estar. One indicates a permanent state, one indicates a temporary state.

So saying you are acting bitchy means that normally you aren’t, and this attitude is outside the norm.

Saying someone is a bitch means that the attitude is normal, and any non bitchy response is outside the norm.

To me, there is a difference.
One is saying you are acting a certain way, a temporary behavior that is not the true person you are. The other is saying you are that person.

I agree that, in a disinterested analysis, the two seem different as already defined…

In the heat of an argument, however, good luck with that distinction!

As an aside, I think “bitchy,” as mentioned in your explanation, is very different and much less extreme than either of the two statements you quoted.

I’d describe myself as “bitchy” as a synonym for “cranky”. “Acting like a bitch” is not “cranky”.

Agree with the folks up-thread, and especially WhyNot’s point. Once folks get to what either one perceives as name-calling, rational word analysis is right out the window. The only thing the person is hearing is emotional tone and the only thing they’re saying is attack words.
But this surprised me:

If I heard someone say “Sally is bitchy” and I don’t know anything else about Sally, I’d interpret that to mean that Sally is usually a bitch. IOW, bitch is her normal state, but there are occasional times when she’s better.

If I heard someone say “Sally is acting bitchy” or “is bitchy today” and I don’t know anything else about Sally, I’d interpret that the opposite. IOW to mean that Sally is usually OK, but is behaving like a bitch just now and that’s not her norm.

Not unless “being” one is open to a literal interpretation.

There is a difference between saying someone is acting like a Jew or being a Jew, because some people are actually Jews. But there are no people who are literally bitches or assholes, so the distinction becomes syntactic.

Acting is a temporary state.
Being is a permanent state.


Totally different. When you say someone is acting like a bitch it implies they are not a bitch, otherwise you’d say they are a bitch. OTOH if you’re just using the phrase to avoid calling bitch a bitch then you are wasting your time because a bitch will just use the wrong interpretation.

I may be using the definition wrong…but I see “being a bitch” ALSO implying the same thing as “acting like a bitch”. To me both seem to say that at the particular moment you are behaving as a full time honest to goodness bitch would be behaving, but that bitch is not your typical or full time state.

Though, I wlll admit that “acting” probably better emphasizes the idea than “being”.

Just a data point for the discussion.

Definitely. One of my absolutes is “Criticize actions. Don’t criticize people.”

Do I do stupid things? You betcha. Am I am stupid person? Absolutely not.

Yeah, that’s my fault. I flubbed up the title. It should be: “You’re acting like a bitch” vs “You’re a bitch”.

I’m sorry, but one is a bitch because one acts like a bitch. The husband was pulling a bogus semantic distinction, and the wife was absolutely right to call him on it.

To me, there’s a big difference between “Sally is bitchy” and “Sally is being bitchy”. Not just in the temporary/permanent aspects, although that’s part of it; the two uses have difference connotations. The bitchy in “Sally is bitchy” reads: “Sally is a nasty person who exploits others, is catty, etc”. The bitchy in “Sally is being bitchy” is more of a toned-down, “Sally woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and is sighing in exasperation a lot today”.

If you’re a bitch you act like one most of the time (hey, everybody sleeps). But it’s like “she’s so ugly” vs “ohmygod has she dressed herself in the dark?” - one is permanent and one temporary.

Still should avoid having arguments in front of other people, and that kind of language whether there are others around or not, but that’s a different question.

On another thread, Is it offensive to call someone a “tard” or a “retard”?, I had remarked:

I think the same observation is being made here, and I present the above example to reinforce it.

**I ** feel that there’s a distinction, but my mother disagreed and boy did I get in trouble.

Significant difference. But as was said, the difference is not significant if you are throwing the word bitch in during an argument.


One more thing - in my view, words based on “bitch” are offensive because of the gender connotations, and if the point is to discuss the behavior then “grumpy” or “cranky” or the like would be better. Why roll gender into it?