Suppose Alice and Bob are having a debate about umbrellas.

Alice does not like umbrellas for a few reasons.

Bob says

Of course you don't like umbrellas, you don't understand the real purpose of them.

Bob is pointing out that Alice has missed some fundamental concept. This not only tries to make Alice feel foolish, but now she is forced to play into Bob's hands by having to ask "Ok, so what is the real purpose of them?" Essentially conceding her ignorance.

Bob could have said

you don't understand the real purpose of them, which is to [ ... ]

Is there a term to describe this style of debate, where someone is lead into conceding ignorance? (Of course, Bob's "opinion" might be wrong, and Alice may not be ignorant at all)

For example:

Bob, why do you use this style of [ ___ ] when debating? It doesn't help Alice out and only forces her to ask you a follow-up question, making it seem like she is appealing to you for help?

Is there a term to describe Bob (a noun)?

Bob is a [ ___ ]. It means he makes himself seem more knowledgeable and forces you to ask him a question, making it seem that he knows more than you do.

The only term I can think of is wise guy. This comes close. Is there something else?

  • 1
    How nicely you have phrased the question! Not that I know the answer, but a 'wise guy' will not make fun of someone's ignorance and they are more likely to treat the ignorant with compassion and patience which seems to absent in Bob Nov 30 '15 at 9:21
  • For debate style: "Why do you use this style of smug selfishness ... ?
    – Graffito
    Dec 2 '15 at 0:32
  • Bob is "complacent".
    – Graffito
    Dec 2 '15 at 0:39

You can say Bob is or behaves like a know-it-all.



a person who behaves as if they know everything.

His debate style could be described as beating around the bush.

beat around the bush

to speak evasively or misleadingly, or to stall or waste time

which describes Bob's demeanour, criticizing Alice for not knowing the purpose of the umbrella, yet evading the explanation of it to her.




The dictionary merely states that a criticaster is "an incompetent critic," but there's a lot more to it. It's a pretty intriguing word. It contains the right kind of derisive note, sufficiently high-pitched to be distinct in any circumstances, yet not harsh enough truly to injure.

  • 2
    criticaster - is this LA psycho-babble or facebook street-talk? Inquiring minds might like to know.
    – Cargill
    Nov 30 '15 at 8:58
  • 2
    @Cargill: I'm a New Yorker. You wouldn't expect me to answer for everything that's going on in L.A. I've never even been to L.A. It's definitely not psycho-babble since I like it, and I can't stand psycho-babble. I don't do Facebook. I mean, I do have an account, but I only check it once a week to keep abreast of the competition. "Criticaster" is tonally related to "paraphrast" and "pederast." Last but not least, "poetaster." It's a kinder, gentler form of being an asshole.
    – Ricky
    Nov 30 '15 at 9:11
  • 2
    It's a kinder, gentler form of being an asshole. I want that on my gravestone. Nov 30 '15 at 9:18

It may seem a bit old-fashioned, but I would say simply that "Bob is a snob."

The following definition of "snob" is from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for children: "Nowadays the word means 'anyone who acts as if he or she were better than others.'" That definition works equally well for adults.


For your other example, perhaps this might be appropriate:

"Bob, why do you resort to condescension when debating? It doesn't help Alice and only forces her to ask you a follow-up question, making it seem like she is appealing to you for help."



I guess the closest word would be incompetent like the dictionary states. Or this words might be close too.

Controlling personality

Strong opinions. (as in see other point of view as less valid).

narcissist (as in can’t handle your confrontation).

Domineer is the word you're looking for. (Asserting one's will over another in an arragant way).


I would say Bob's debate style is that of a Sophomania .

As nouns the difference between intelligence and sophomania is that intelligence is (uncountable) capacity of mind, especially to understand principles, truths, facts or meanings, acquire knowledge, and apply it to practice; the ability to learn and comprehend while sophomania is a delusion of superior intelligence.

SOPHOMANIA English Noun (-) A delusion of superior intelligence. Related terms * sophomaniac * sophomaniacal

  • (1) Do you have reference(s) for any of this? (2) The definition you provide doesn’t support your answer as an answer to this question, which has nothing to do with delusion.
    – Scott
    Nov 18 '19 at 1:24

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