Donald Rumsfeldt had a way of speaking in public, where to make his point more forcibly he would pose questions and answer them. Has Saddam Hussain bombed his own people? Yes. Has he begun the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction? Yes Are we prepared to see him terrorise his neighbours? No (This is not necessarily an accurate quotation, but just an example of the sorts of things he said).

But what interests me is this form of rhetoric which involves posing loaded questions and providing answers that make your point. Another exponent of this was Josef Stalin. In his case it has been seen by some historians as a technique he learned during his childhood education in a religious seminary. It was a form of catechism.

So what is the rhetoric called? Is it catechismic? The word does not exist (at least not in the OED) as an adjective.

Edit. I have briefly looked at the former question.It is not entirely a parallel example - the OP complains that his wife does it in the course of everyday conversation. I am primarily interested in the development of an argument through this process. But the former question did bring out some interesting words - e.g. sermocinatio,- @Sven Yargs - which unfortunately does not have an OED entry. But I am also fascinated by the link to catechism, which I believe may be the provenance of this in some politicians. Someone has now come up with a suitable adjective - below.

Answer. I think the closest answer has been supplied by @Old English Lapdog. It seems to be the case that there are two distinct elements to this. One is that it follows the religious practice of teaching by question and supplied answer. In that sense it relates to catechism. But in building an argument it is rhetorical. The word catechetical in its OED (sense 3) includes a reference to Socrates. 1711 J. Addison Spectator No. 239. ¶3 Socrates introduced a Catechetical Method of Arguing. He would ask his Adversary Question upon Question, till he had convinced him out of his own Mouth that his Opinions were wrong. So I am prepared to accept catechetical as the answer.

  • 6
    Are you asking what a rhetorical question is called?
    – Mitch
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:11
  • @Mitch It is more than a rhetorical question as Josh61 explains in his answer.
    – WS2
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:13
  • 2
    Oh. Whether the asker answers or not, I call that a rhetorical question. But if you insist on having the answer, then hypophora seems to be right.
    – Mitch
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:20
  • 1
    In the episode of Scrubs titled "My New Game,"Turk has a new attending who has the habit of speaking by asking a question and immediately answering it, no matter the situation (Negative: Do I want you to be on time, Dr. Turk? Yes I do. Am I going to remember this? Of course I am." Positive: "Do I think you did great? Yes I do!"). They simply refer to this as being a "question talker," though it's not quite the level of rhetoric you're asking about.
    – Exal
    Oct 20, 2015 at 7:21
  • @Exal Interesting that it does seem to have a street name.
    – WS2
    Oct 20, 2015 at 8:19

5 Answers 5


I believe that the closest one will come is, indeed, catachetical, or catechetic - the 3rd meaning given in the Oxford English Reference dictionary : "consisting of or proceeding by question and answer." Unfortunately, there is no mention of rhetoric here. Since there actually appears to BE no word describing exactly that which you seek, may I suggest a new word? Catachrhetoral?...(catachrhetoralism.)

  • Well done! Brilliant! There is even an entry for it in the OED and sense 3 gives us: Resembling the method of instruction by questions and answers, as in the catechism; ‘consisting of questions and answers’. esp this example: 1711 J. Addison Spectator No. 239. ¶3 Socrates introduced a Catechetical Method of Arguing. He would ask his Adversary Question upon Question, till he had convinced him out of his own Mouth that his Opinions were wrong (Johnson).
    – WS2
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:03
  • I.e. I think we can go with catechetical. Since the OED sense 3 contains reference to Socrates, and Socratic argument there is no doubt it is rhetorical.
    – WS2
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:35
  • But the Socratic methodology of asking questions was quite different from the one initially described by the OP, and still present in the title, even if he has accepted this answer as being correct. Please quote me a single line where Socrates posed a question and answered it himself. Your neologism is, in my opinion, quite unpronounceable and nonsensical.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 22, 2015 at 0:19

Probably a hypophora:

  • a figure of speech in which a writer raises a question and then immediately provides an answer to that question Commonly, a question is asked in the first paragraph and then the paragraph is used to answer the question. It is also known as antipophora or anthypophora.

    • At first look, examples of hypophora may seem similar to rhetorical question examples but there is a slight difference as explained below.

    • The basic difference between hypophora and a rhetorical question is that in a rhetorical question the answer is not provided by the writer since it does not require an answer. Such as, “…..For if we lose the ability to perceive our faults, what is the good of living on?” (Marcus Aurelius). However, in hypophora, the writer first poses a question and then answers that question immediately such as in this example, “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” (Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage by Kurt Vonnegut)


  • This is a very good answer Josh, but hypophora has only the tiniest reference in the OED with a sole example from 1695. Do you know anything about its Greek meaning? In my view it does follow the style of a catechism. Would you have any idea about a suitable adjective to reflect that?
    – WS2
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:17
  • Hypophora : etymology: Hypo is Greek for “without”, phoros; Greek for “to bear or have”, related to anthypophora; to give an opposing argument, and immediately refute it
    – user66974
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:31
  • My impression is that "catechism" has a different connotation: Origin From Late Latin catechismus, from Ancient Greek *κατηχισμός (katēkhismos, “katēkhismos”), from κατηχίζω (katēkhizō, “to catechize”), a later extended form of κατηχέω (katēkheō, “to catechize, instruct, teach by word of mouth”), from κατά (kata, “down”) + ἠχέω (ēkheō, “to sound, to resound”).
    – user66974
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:35
  • But inherent to the idea of catechism is the use of a question and supplied answer format. OED sense 2. An elementary treatise for instruction in the principles of the Christian religion, in the form of question and answer; such a book accepted and issued by a church as an authoritative exposition of its teaching, as the Longer Catechism and Shorter Catechism, of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, used by the Presbyterian churches, etc
    – WS2
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:38
  • Yes, I am quite aware of what catechism is and means, but it is not a form of rhetoric, it rather make an abundant use of rhetoric devices such as hypophora, IMO.
    – user66974
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:47

Besides the term of "rhetorical question" mentionned by @Mitch, such rhetorical figure may refer to:

Procatalepsis or prolepsis

It occurs when the author raises a question and anticipates a possible objection or counter-argument in order to answer or discount it, or to deprive it of force.

Example of speech using "procatalepsis", where the speaker introduces the disturbing question and provides an answer to dismiss the objections:

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: ‘Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?’ The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. from Prolepsis: dealing with multiple viewpoints in argument

In the case of a question followed by an obvious "Yes" or "No" answer, the figure corresponds to:

erotesis or its synonym of erotema

It is a figure of speech whereby a question is asked in confident expectation of a strongly positive or negative answer.

Erotema is a designation for Rhetorical Questions, also called Erotesis, often used by public speakers and debaters, that either does not require an answer or for which the speaker intends to provide his or her own answer ('Does this government know what it is doing?'). Such a question is used as a striking substitute for a statement. Erotema often implies an answer, but usually does not provide one explicitly. Erotema may be a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something. Erotema encourage the listener to think about what the answer to the question must be, however obvious. The rhetorical question. To affirm or deny a point strongly by asking it as a question. Generally, Erotema includes an emotional dimension, expressing wonder, indignation, sarcasm, etc. [source]

Other "erotesis/erotema" link

  • I have upvoted your answer. But I have not yet accepted it as an answer as I am still wondering if procatalepsis describes a scheme which, by way of question and answer, moves by steps to a desired conclusion.
    – WS2
    Oct 19, 2015 at 22:27
  • @WS2 - I included in my answer an example for "Prolepsis" and a reference to an 18 pages article on this rhetorical figure.
    – Graffito
    Oct 19, 2015 at 22:51
  • 1
    This is superior to the accepted answer, IMO. Prolepsis is a much more widely recognised term (by a factor of about 50 according to Google Ngrams), and has the exact right meaning in the context of the OP's question.
    – Baldrick
    Oct 20, 2015 at 11:30

A Greek rhetorical figure not yet proposed is dianoea:

The use of animated questions and answers in developing an argument (sometimes simply the equivalent of anthypophora).

(From Silva Rhetoricae.)

When not "simply the equivalent of anthypophora", this figure emphasizes the development of an argument by way of the questions and answers. Anthypophora, in contrast, emphasizes "reasoning aloud". I think it is more the development of an argument through animated questions and answers that Stalin and Rumsfeld exploit, than simply reasoning aloud, and consider the employment of the figure a byproduct of the church training they received in their early years.

From another source, including parallel terms from Latin rhetoric:

Di´-a-nœ´-a. Greek, διάνοια, a revolving in the mind. This Figure is employed when the speaker uses animated questions and answers in developing an argument.

The Latins called it SUBJECTIO, a substituting, RESPONSIO, a responding.

It is a form of Dialogismos ....


  • You have suggested a number of words there which I shall need to consider. But it is interesting that dianoea does not have an entry in the OED.
    – WS2
    Oct 20, 2015 at 8:16
  • This sounds is impressively close in terms of purpose and form, i'm convinced, but it would be nice to see at least one academic citation (a fitting example bound to the term in a written work)
    – wilson0x4d
    Oct 20, 2015 at 14:41

Rabbinical students are taught a version of self-argument that is very much asking a question, answering your own question, asking a question about that answer, etc. The Hebrew word for this is pilpul.


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