For example, assume that Charlie stole a bicycle and you saw it or know it. Next week you speak with Charlie and he denies all knowledge of stealing a bicycle. Of course he does, and he's evasive. Is there a good word for such a character?


6 Answers 6


Within the UK police force this is (sometimes) known as 'the Shaggy defence', in reference to the song "Wasn't Me".

I can't find an online source for that. I only know it because a police officer friend of mine told me about it.

Oh, actually, here we go:

The Shaggy defense

"I predict that in the decades to come, law schools will teach this as the 'Shaggy defense'. You allege that I was caught on camera, butt naked, banging on the log cabin floor? It wasn't me."


PESCA: Good. R. Kelly's defense is really pretty simple. He's just saying it wasn't me, and the defense team also says the girl in the video, or the girl the prosecutors are pointing to, it wasn't her. You saw the tape. The jury saw the tape. How does that defense work? What - does the guy look like him?

Mr. LEVIN: The guy definitely looks like him. As he said, it - the it-wasn't-me defense, which I'm calling the Shaggy defense, after the popular reggae song.


Meet the Shaggy Defense: Lying in the face of overwhelming evidence.


The defence favored by the protagonist in Shaggy's song "It Wasn't Me". Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he maintains his innoncence by simply saying it was somebody else. Also liked by R. Kelly, O.J. Simpson, and Phil Specter


It’s now official: The “Shaggy defense” is a term of art

When Danville U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser rules that the “Shaggy defense” won’t fly in a summary judgment motion, we can safely assume the term is now ensconced in the annals of legal terminology.

For those whose musical tastes don’t include R&B, the “Shaggy defense” refers to a 2000 hit by reggae star Shaggy (Jamaica native and U.S. Marine) who counseled a wayward lover to deny everything with the phrase “It wasn’t me,” despite all evidence to the contrary. The term is helpfully explained in footnote 3 in Kiser’s opinion in the case of Preston v. Morton. Kiser notes the term “Shaggy defense” gained popularity when used to describe another musician’s defense in a criminal case.

In the civil case before Kiser, Preston claimed he was working on traffic signals in a bucket truck and was injured when his bucket was hit by a passing tractor trailer driven by Morton. Morton’s main defense was, you guessed it – “It wasn’t me.” Kiser said the issue of whether Morton was the driver in question was a disputed material fact, holding “the so-called ‘Shaggy defense’ is inappropriate for summary judgment.”



since the person in question is putting up that act i suggest that person should be called 'knowledge refuter'.


In England, such a person might be termed "a Manuel" after the character in Fawlty Towers, whose most popular catchphrase (delivered with brio in a cod-Spanish accent) was, "I know nothing."


In philosophy, the school of thought which denied the possibility of knowledge is the Skeptics, so the word would be Skeptic or Skeptical.

From Wikipedia:

It is generally agreed that knowledge requires justification. It is not enough to have a true belief: one must also have good reasons for that belief. Skeptics claim that it is not possible to have an adequate justification.

Skepticism is not a single position but covers a range of different positions. In the ancient world there were two main skeptical traditions. Academic skepticism took the dogmatic position that knowledge was not possible; Pyrrhonian skeptics refused to take a dogmatic position on any issue—including skepticism. Radical skepticism ends in the paradoxical claim that one cannot know anything—including that one cannot know anything.

In medicine, the phrase "in denial" is used to describe a psychiatric condition.

From The Free Dictionary:

denial [dĕ-ni´al] in psychiatry, a defense mechanism in which the existence of unpleasant internal or external realities is denied and kept out of conscious awareness. By keeping the stressors out of consciousness, they are prevented from causing anxiety.

ineffective denial a nursing diagnosis accepted by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, defined as denial that is detrimental to health when a person makes a conscious or unconscious attempt to disavow the meaning or even the knowledge of an event in order to reduce anxiety or fear.

Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

In Law, a general denial rejects all the material elements of a petition, whereas a specific denial rejects particular elements.

From The Free Dictionary:

Deny To refuse to acknowledge something; to disclaim connection with or responsibility for an action or statement. To deny someone of a legal right is to deprive him or her of that right.

A denial is a part of a legal Pleading that refutes the facts set forth by the opposing side. A general denial takes exception to all the material elements of the complaint or petition, and a specific denial addresses a particular allegation in issue.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

  • Skeptics you say? ;^q
    – puppetsock
    Jan 24, 2020 at 20:37

acatalepsy, acataleptic

from Wiktionary


You can call him a denier in general but it is not always the case in law. For example, below excerpt explains the difference between "denial" and "refusal to admit":

"Formulaic guilt" simply by "being a denier" has been castigated by English judges and academics. The main objection is that denial theory is founded on the premise that that which the supposed denier is denying is truth. This usurps the judge (and/or jury) as triers of fact.

It is important to note what makes denial denial and not just refusal to admit to or accept a truth or fact rests in the degree of individual's awareness of the existence of the truth or fact. In denial, an individual does not see or is mostly unconscious of existence of the truth or fact. The choice to refuse reality, then, is unconscious as well. Refusal to admit to or accept a truth or fact differs from denial in that the individual recognizes or is conscious of the existence of the truth or fact but consciously refuses to accept it as such.


There are also cases that people use dissociative identity disorder as a defense mechanism. This behavior is also called dissociating.

Like the temporary insanity defense, the use of dissociative identity disorder as a legal defense seems almost perfect: yes, the defense counsel can say, the body defendant committed a crime, but the mind that committed that crime is not the mind on trial.


Dissociating is also mentioned as a defense tactic when there is an external threat. Below excerpt is from a book called "Human Conflict: Disagreement, Misunderstanding, and Problematic Talk" By C. David Mortensen:

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Willful ignorance is a more general term also beyond your example. It is denying any knowledge or fact willfully:

It differs from the standard definition of “ignorance“ — which just means that one is unaware of something — in that willfully ignorant people are fully aware of facts, resources and sources, but refuse to acknowledge them.

It is sometimes referred to as tactical stupidity.



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