I'm searching for a word for the feeling of uncertainty as to the sincerity of another person's statements or behavior.

Or, the state of being that is to think someone is possibly putting on an act without knowing for certain.

"skeptical" is close, but I would like something focused on the sincerity or intent of the message rather than its accuracy or validity.

This may be theater-related, or perhaps more precisely defined in another language. I do not know if it is appropriate to ask for non-english definitions here, though I would be interested in them.

An example of a situation that might produce the feeling I am attempting to name:

Someone publicly declares that he or she has had a book published on snark and sarcasm. This person, contextually, is quite sarcastic but also a known published writer. To consider the statement true or false would be equally rational.

Another example:

A professional comedian known to be critical of news and media does an interview with a major traditional news and media outlet, and he or she is unusually cooperative, respectful, and accepting of the interviewers. He or she is friendly to the point that it is out of character. It could stand to reason they are being sincere to make a point, or insincere to make a joke.

  • Dubious The sincerity of comedian B Smith during his recent interview was dubious to say the least.
    – Joe Dark
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 19:05
  • The sincerity of comedian BSmith was dubious. I felt ___ watching his bit. Also, "dubious" does not have any focused meaning. This still requires the use of the word "sincerity" to explain the writer's intent.
    – B Smith
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 20:58

3 Answers 3


This idea is reflected in Poe's Law. It is an internet adage named after its author Nathan Poe.

The core idea of Poe's law is that a parody of something extreme can be mistaken for the real thing, and if a real thing sounds extreme enough, it can be mistaken for a parody (all because parodies are intrinsically extreme, in case you haven't noticed it).


enter image description here

Further details: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/poes-law

Urbandictionary also have an entry for the acronym NSIS. It can be either:

  • Not sure if sarcasm


  • Not sure if serious
  • NSIS is a communication of the feeling. I was hoping for a more formally defined word or phrase expressing the feeling Fry has in the above meme.
    – B Smith
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 21:00
  • 1
    @BSmith: I think there isn't a specific feeling for that. There are general feelings like "doubt", "suspicion" or "unsureness" that you can use in the context.
    – ermanen
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 22:41
  • I think you may be right. I may have better luck looking for a German equivalent. I appreciate the help!
    – B Smith
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 13:12

A phrase could be that you were "skeptical of his/her intent" or that you "weren't sure whether he/she was speaking literally or not."


Passage from A Game of Thrones depicting an exchange between Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister:

"Sad, isn't it? When I was your age, I used to dream of having a dragon of my own."

"You did?" the boy said suspiciously. Perhaps he thought Tyrion was making fun of him.

  • Which bit is the concise phrase?
    – itsbruce
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 21:46
  • "Suspicious", "Suspicious of"
    – Koroviev
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 23:15
  • not quite right. still need to use "making fun", "sincerity", "intent" or related words to communicate the idea.
    – B Smith
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 13:13

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