There is a single obscure word whose very definition is when one says "I'm sorry for saying this, but" or "I hate to tell you this, but", and then proceeds to do the very opposite and attacks or lambasts the person they're talking to. For the life of me I can't find it and I've searched high and low. Can someone please help me? Many thanks and cheers!

  • “it might be a good word, though”
    – Misti
    Jan 12 '15 at 18:12
  • 2
    You could perhaps call it an apologia or hedge, but I don't really think there's going to be a dedicated word specifically for "falsely claimed regret". Though there is one for "falsely claiming one isn't going to mention something" - apophasis Jan 12 '15 at 18:24
  • 1
    @CopperKettle: Sorry, but I think that's not what's being asked. It seems to me s/he's asking for a grammar/rhetoric term describing the act of preceding some statement with a word or phrase meaning "[I'm] sorry", even though the speaker in fact relishes being able to deliver the sad news, rather than actually feeling regretful in any way. Jan 12 '15 at 18:35
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Actually, I literally just found the word. It's parrhesia. It's a device of rhetoric and most online dictionaries simply define it as "boldness of speech", which is ONE of the definitions. It also has a specialized meaning of "warning of potential offense, and asking pardon in advance". Other examples are "with all due respect", "forgive me, but", "with respect", etc. Jan 12 '15 at 20:18
  • 1
    I see comments referring to a duplicate question, but since the question itself no longer carries that marker, I don't know which specific question people thought this one duplicates. That said, to me, the question is quite reminiscent of What is it called when someone says something like: “I'm not a racist, but…”.
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 14 '15 at 11:58

The word I was looking for was parrhesia.

Parrhesia is defined as boldness of speech. But it's a great word with another special meaning:

Quoting from 1000 Most Challenging Words, by Norman W. Schur (Galahad Books, 1987):

In oratorical rhetoric, i.e., the art of influencing an audience, parrhesia, in the words of William Safire (On Language, in The New York Times Magazine of October 21, 1984), "has a specialized meaning: 'warning of potential offense, and asking pardon in advance.'" The expression with all due respect (in Britain, they shorten it to with respect) is an example of parrhesia: What it really means is, "I haven't the slightest respect for you and certainly not for what you just said, and I'm going to show you up before this prestigious audience for the blithering idiot you are...!"

The word comes from the Greek prefix para- (beside, beyond - as in, e.g., parapsychology) plus rhesis (speech).

Other examples include "Forgive me, but...", "Pardon me, but...".

At least this gives the recipient of such a preface a short time to best prepare for the oratorical firestorm coming their way!

  • 1
    Safire is of course a recongised authority on the English language, but I wish he's said that " . . . parrhesia has a specialized meaning: 'warning of potential offense, and asking pardon in advance." ["It is so specialised that it occurs in few if any dictionaries, will be misunderstood by 99+% of people encountering it unforewarned, and is best avoided in all but the most esoteric of writing."] Jan 14 '15 at 16:35
  • @EdwinAshworth I agree completely! While I was wishing to find the word that I knew existed but that I had mis-remembered, I have not suggested that its usage is recommended! I was just hoping against hope that someone here would help me to bring it back to the forefront of my memory and, in a circuitous way, it did just that. Cheers! Jan 14 '15 at 16:55

The only word that I can think of for that is a hypocrite

Check out this link

There are a number of synonyms


Hope this helps.

  • What's being asked for is the name of the rhetorical device, not the person using it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 14 '15 at 16:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.