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Is there a word for the situation one is in when, for example, trying to explain something or provide a rebuttal to someone who attempts to make a point about a topic they know nothing about?

This is probably best described by an example:

Object Oriented Programming allows the data objects to just be moved to another platform to be tested on.

Object oriented programming, for example, just doesn't work like that. There is no adequate response to such a statement - the statement itself is nonsense, though the word "nonsense" seems too broad since the statement tries to make a point and has a structure.

It's a point confidently made by someone with a clear lack of any understanding of the topic at hand.

It's not wrong in the sense that it's a misunderstanding. It's incoherent and more equivalent to comparing apples to oranges. It just doesn't make any sense in the first place.

Is there a word for such statements? I find myself trying to explain this sensation of being unable to respond in such instances to no avail, simply because there is no word for such a thing.

  • It perhaps doesn't help very much but the person is clearly out of their depth. I can't think of a polite way of putting it to someone, and I suppose that is the essence of your dilemma. But speaking to anyone else one could say that Bill has a profound misunderstanding of the way the system works. – WS2 Mar 1 '16 at 10:20
  • Beating one's head against a brick wall comes to mind, probably because in my day job I have to try to deal with people's profound misunderstanding of IT requirements, as @WS2 put it. – Charl E Mar 1 '16 at 11:20
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    The typical characterization of such statements is they're "not even wrong", and the people who tout them so confidently are often described as clueless. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 12:14
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    Can you add an example sentence or two with a gap where your ideal word would go? – user568458 Mar 1 '16 at 12:38
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    Descriptor of the sentence you listed: word salad. – A.S. Mar 1 '16 at 19:13

11 Answers 11

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That person is "out of their depth", but you are "at a loss".

Both from the free dictionary:

be out of your depth - to not have the knowledge, experience, or skills to deal with a particular subject or situation; When Ruth started talking about the differences between the databases, I knew I was out of my depth. By half-time, England was losing 4-0 and the English players were looking hopelessly out of their depth.

Adj. 1. at a loss - filled with bewilderment; "at a loss to understand those remarks"; "puzzled that she left without saying goodbye"

In a less formal setting, you might instead say that they were talking out of their ass, rendering you speechless.

From the Urban Dictionary:

talking out of your ass To make an obviously false claim. To attempt discussion on a topic with no prior knowledge of it usually results in this. The moon landing was a hoax? You're talking out of your ass.

or

When someone says something stupid that they have no proof of. For example, "The Space Shuttle was destroyed by TERRORISTS!"

From the Free Dictionary:

speech·less (spēch′lĭs) adj. 2. Temporarily unable to speak, as through astonishment.

  • out of your depth seems to be the closest. – Qix Mar 1 '16 at 19:51
  • I also like not even wrong, though I'll accept this answer as well. – Qix Mar 4 '16 at 4:09
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    As Walter from "The Big Lebowski" would say, "You're out of your element... [Y]ou have no frame of reference here... You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie, and wants to know [what's happening]" – PV22 Jun 26 '17 at 16:17
  • @PV22 That last one is a great analogy – Qix Jun 26 '17 at 23:52
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Neither single words nor specific to your context, but the general situation you describe seems similar to the “hopeless endeavor” and “exercise in futility" that Vika encountered and eventually abandoned when debating religion in Katya Cohen’s book ‘The American Spellbound’ found on ‘Google Books.’

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As for your example, I would simply say that the statement is false (you're correct in noticing that not everything that is false is also necessarily nonsense). Amusingly enough, according to Wikipedia this can be further pinpointed as a "(false) statement made out of ignorance". But the best single word to describe what you're talking about, AFAIK, is just "false".

I don't think there is a word or an idiom for the situation you are in, but the person who wrote that could be said to be out of their depth:

Fig. involved in something that is beyond one's capabilities.

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It is a "FOREIGN TOPIC" you know, the listeners/ readers don't. They require a friendly lead to get it understood.

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It boggles your mind

boggle the/one's mind

Bewilder or astonish with complexity, novelty, or the like, as in The very magnitude of the Milky Way boggles the mind. The source of this usage is unclear, as the verb to boggle has several other seemingly unrelated meanings-to shy away, to hesitate, to bungle. [Second half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer

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The person who spoke is clearly out of his lane. This expression allows that he might be intelligent and knowledgeable in other areas, but that in this particular area, he has no idea what he is talking about and generates pure piffle.

The not even wrong idea comes from Wolgang Pauli, who is reputed to have said of a mathematical proof that That is not only not right. It is not even wrong!" Wikipedia has another tale of Pauli in which he tells Lev Landau that "What you said was so confused that one could not tell whether it was nonsense or not."

  • "Piffle"! I like that. Though it might be impure piffle, not pure piffle. – Drew Mar 1 '16 at 22:46
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Stupefy

  • make (someone) unable to think or feel properly

  • astonish and shock

I would say you find yourself in a situation where you have been 'stupefied by gross ignorance/misconception' such that you have no recourse.

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Inarticulate response is close. Even though inarticulate basically implies "lack of proper words to express", it is generally used to imply "not well thought out"

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    But doesn't it seem that the person asking the question is presenting a hypothetical situation where the person who is on the receiving end of the would-be explanation has no understanding at all and thus renders explanation impossible? In such a case it seems to me that the explanation is doomed not because the person offering it is insufficiently articulate, but because he or she is talking to the human equivalent of a vacant house. Is there a word for the inability to explain that arises in that situation? – Sven Yargs Mar 2 '16 at 8:20
  • Okay I understand what you mean. In this case the response is nescient/ ignorant (both means lack of knowledge). So the person can tell his peer that the point he is making is totally nescient or ignorant . – khushboo gupta Mar 2 '16 at 8:40
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I think such a statement can be called an uninformed statement.

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Another reasonable way to describe this is to refer to it as a category error or category error.

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I can't think of one word, but you could call the situation an education gap or a proficiency gap. Perhaps you could call it a cultural literacy gap. There is already the phrases "generation gap" and "gender gap", so there is a certain precedent for a word representing whatever kind of education, experience, or proficiency used with the word "gap". Actually, the situation that you have specified is an attempt to close an especially wide gap, so no, I don't think there is a single word that describes that situation. It is probably just as well, as people would be all too eager to use the word in a debate, and there is already enough ad hominem in debates.

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