When reading some work of a friend, I noticed the sentence "When in doubt ask me". Instead of simply pointing out that it could use a comma after doubt, I read the sentence aloud with no gaps or punctuation, as it is written. When I was corrected that there should be a pause, I smiled and remarked that there was no punctuation to indicate this and my friend realised their own mistake. When asked why I didn't just say that, I remarked that I was just being __ for the sake of amusement.

I used "spurious", but having re-read its definition, that is not the correct word to describe the way I acted, because it means: Not being what it purports to be; false or fake: "spurious claims".

I don't think "sarcastic" covers what I did either and I'm at a loss for the word to use.

  • Old Socrates did that all the time. Apr 28, 2011 at 17:44
  • I wouldn't reject sarcastic too soon, it is straightforwardly what you were doing. The only question is if there's a word that implies your sarcasm was for a positive rather than a negative goal.
    – Wayne
    May 17, 2011 at 16:41

9 Answers 9


I would use "facetious" in this context. I define being facetious as "just messing with (something or someone)." It's not quite sarcasm, but it's a close relative, IMHO.

  • @kituwfyer: Doesn't the intent of the situation require it to be qualified? The OP wasn't only being sarcastic, they were being sarcastic for a reason - does this cover it? Apr 28, 2011 at 17:23
  • 2
    @Mr. Disappointment ...I don't think I understand what you're getting at. The OP wasn't exactly being sarcastic at all, as he states in the question. Either way, people speak for a reason. If they speak sarcastically, then it's sarcastic for a reason, but most people aren't going to clarify it. That can be said for facetious as well...IMHO, if you're saying anything at all, facetiously or sarcastically or whatever, a reason for it is implicit...Does that answer your question at all? or have I missed it completely?
    – kitukwfyer
    Apr 28, 2011 at 18:21
  • Apologies, I was hasty earlier and didn't do a good job in expressing what I meant, to the point of misusing 'sarcasm'. I was more concerned about what the reason was - not that there was a reason - for instance, should an answer encapsulate the aspect of why? My answer doesn't cover this, I was just curious. Apr 29, 2011 at 1:25
  • @Mr. Disappointment Ah. Now I understand, methinks... I might have a brain block, but is there any word that really does that completely? I can't think of any right off... To answer your question, no, I wouldn't say that using being facetious would specifically indicate any intention. I think that comes mostly from context. Being facetious would probably imply a desire to amuse oneself, if no one else, but the intention to gently lead the other to correct themselves I would understand solely from context. "Being facetious" could as easily imply an intention to humiliate in other contexts.
    – kitukwfyer
    Apr 29, 2011 at 1:37
  • @kitukfwyer: I agree, and I can't think of anything that would cover it succinctly either. Maybe I'll keep it on my mind and return if I can possibly think of something relevant and interesting. Apr 29, 2011 at 1:49

you were being disingenuous

Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naïf.

or you were being faux-naïf

Marked by a false show of innocent simplicity

  • 1
    Like my "wilfully perverse", these don't capture that the intention was actually to help.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 28, 2011 at 16:51

"facetious" is the best reply thus far, but, with all due respect, you were being a smartass...I don't know it is allowable in the context, though.

"smart aleck" is the more socially-acceptable flavor.

  • I was undoubtedly being a smartass, but that's how I like to teach sometimes. May 5, 2011 at 12:09

You were almost playing the devil's advocate.

play/be devil’s advocate
to pretend to disagree with someone in order to start an argument or interesting discussion
Synonyms or related words for this sense of devil’s advocate
To pretend to do or feel something: pretend, fake, simulate, assume, make believe, put on, affect, play along, keep up, feign... more

I said almost because you did not really say anything that you didn't agree with. But you did intentionally read the sentence incorrectly just to make your friend realize that there was something missing.

  • +1 I think facetious covers this situation better, but playing the devil's advocate could also be applied. May 5, 2011 at 12:10

You were being elliptical:

(of speech or writing) lacking a word or words, esp. when the sense can be understood from contextual clues.



Arch ("knowing, clever, mischievous") seems most appropriate, I think. One could also use sly, in its "artfully cunning; secretly mischievous" sense, or wicked in its "naughtily or annoyingly playful" or "roguish" senses. Some observers might use the term patronizing, "treating condescendingly", or describe you as persnickety, "obsessive about mundane details, demanding ... precision".


I think you were being pedantic, or:

overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

  • 2
    This is incorrect, it is not pedantic - and this isn't even an issue of pedantry! Apr 28, 2011 at 15:05
  • In what respect?
    – Sam
    Apr 28, 2011 at 16:09
  • 2
    In that you wouldn't be pedantically nitpicking in this sense as the phrasing is subject to significant error (as subtle as that may be.) For instance, the meaning differs depending on whether a comma is present or not. 'Let's eat, Grandma!' and 'Let's eat Grandma!' is a reasonable example. Apr 28, 2011 at 17:19
  • Except that there is no secondary meaning without the comma in this case. And I suppose I meant pedantic more as a pejorative and more regarding the method he used to illustrate his point. If he had simply said, you need a comma, I wouldn't consider that pedantic.
    – Sam
    Apr 28, 2011 at 18:55

"Wilfully perverse", though that doesn't quite capture your intention.


When asked why I didn't just say that, I remarked that I was just being DELIBERATELY OBTUSE for the sake of amusement. [obtuse -annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand] When asked why I didn't just say that, I remarked that I was just being VEXATIOUS for the sake of amusement. [vexatious -causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry]

  • deliberately obtuse is hands-down the best one for the OP's anecdote, I think, except that I have only ever heard people being accused of being that, never describing themselves as such
    – Deipatrous
    Aug 30, 2023 at 14:47

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