I was wondering if there is a word that carries the same meaning as "distraction" but can be used for a comedy effect too.

As an example, imagine a situation where my parents are away and I've been eating take-aways, but also created a mess in the kitchen just to give the impression that I was cooking. I'm looking for a light-hearted word to describe this action and "distraction" doesn't sound that great to me.

I'm a native Greek speaker and this word exists in Greek. I'm trying to approximate the word "xekarfoma" (ξεκάρφωμα). It's the opposite of the word "karfoma" (κάρφωμα) which in slang means give someone away. So I'm looking for the word to describe the actions one is taking in order not to give oneself away.

  • 3
    Two options that I think might work are smokescreen ("something designed to obscure, confuse, or mislead," per Merriam-Webster) and ruse ("a wily subterfuge," again per MW). Smokescreen is the less formal of the two, but ruse has a long oo sound that you can draw out for comic effect if you are so inclined.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 20:33
  • Here in the UK that type of thing could be termed a "cunning plan", especially if it's rather transparent and not really particularly cunning.
    – A E
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 12:33
  • While not specific to trickery, you've created a "spectacle" ("an event or scene regarded in terms of its visual impact") for your parents to behold.
    – LJ2
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 16:24
  • "Hanky panky" has the joking connotation, but of course has less of the literal meaning you're looking for. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 2:33

9 Answers 9


Not light-hearted, but I assume you're looking for sleight-of-hand kind of things more than distractions. "Red Herring" sounds like what you need for the scenarios you mentioned.

Or maybe you're just going for general subterfuge or misdirection.

Also, 'hoodwink' has a little bit more lightheartedness.

  • 4
    Hoodwink sounds jokey :)
    – ermanen
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:35

You are pulling the wool over your parents' eyes.


I would recommend either 'ruse' or 'ploy'. Out of curiosity, what is the Greek word that you're trying to approximate?

  • 1
    I'm trying to approximate the word "xekarfoma" (ξεκάρφωμα). It's the opposite of the word "karfoma" (κάρφωμα) which in slang means give someone up. So I'm looking for the word to describe the actions one is taking in order not to give oneself up.
    – LeoC
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 16:55
  • 2
    @balleveryday - I think you mean 'give oneself away', i.e. reveal what you actually wish to conceal.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 16:59
  • 1
    I think "ploy" is a good word to use for this. I'm not sure it comes across as playful as the op wants though. I would try emphasizing the cleverness of the ploy, (e.g. "a clever ploy indeed," or, "a most clever ploy"), I think doing so makes it sound just the tiniest bit sarcastic about the cleverness (which if op is referring to his own ploy...). Alternatively, along those same lines you could try the word "scheme", which implies it might be a bit scatter-brained to begin with. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 16:27

We shouldn't we overlook the obvious trick:


1.0 A cunning act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone:

1.1 A mischievous practical joke:

1.2 An illusion:

2.0 A skillful act performed for entertainment or amusement:

but for pulling a fast one like that:


Trick someone:

Craft is a relatively lighthearted expression for deception:


  1. Skill used in deceiving others:

You could probably pass Flimflam:

A confidence trick:

to dupe most English speakers with its jokey sound:



Deceive; trick:


Red herring is apt. "Camouflage" might apply to both situations. Also, In a sense, you are using a "decoy". Although a hunting decoy, rather than diverting attention, diverts the prey toward you so you can take a shot at close range (this might apply better to the dating situation, especially if you include your friends rather than hers—but that could prove disastrous, if she really went for one of those "decoys"!) Trojan Horse is another phrase for a scheme to conceal your true intentions.

In the kitchen scenario, an accurate description of it requires several words: you "deliberately created a false impression". For that, "(threw up a) smokescreen", as suggested earlier, is most succinct.


I would say you are masking or disguising your actions.


What you describe sounds like an hoax: (TFD)

  • a deception, esp a practical joke.

or a prank:

  • a mischievous trick or practical joke.

Doing a "Major Martin"- the man who never was. If you read the background, it was an elaborate and complex ploy to (successfully) trick the Germans into believing something based on disinformation.

Another example could be when I like someone and want to invite her out, but I invite her friends as well so that she or anyone else will not suspect anything.

Doing a Major Martin and inviting her, and not only her, but also her friends out so that nobody will suspect the ploy.


"Cover" is a shorter and less formal word than "distraction":

Eg: "He made a mess in the kitchen as cover for his lack of culinary activity."

Or: "I was keen on the girl, but invited another of my friends along as cover".

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