Is there a word for someone who tries to trip you up during conversation almost so you muddle your words and sound confused to the point where they appear to have have won a debate?

Someone who uses tactics such as these to appear that they've won a debate without actually winning based on the merit of what they have said.

They'll instead try and trip you up, or purposely respond to what you said as if it was outrageous, ridiculous or comically funny?

Their responses have no substance but their tactic is to attack what you have said, if this makes sense?

It's almost like a 'troll' but their tactics are not readily apparent to others as being 'trolling'.

Ideally you'd like to be able to say "She is such a/an X" or "She wins all her arguments through being an/a X" or "She wins her arguments by doing X" or "She only won that debate through her X tactics". Something along these lines would be helpful.

Edit: this question was marked a duplicate but the duplicate post isn't exactly the same as what I am asking. The confusion tactic is an element of their behaviour but it's also to ridicule or pick one word of what you said and attack that specific use of word, etc. All your answers have been very helpful. Thank you

  • Manipulative behaviour, that is. – NVZ May 12 '16 at 13:54
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    Flippantly; politician fits the bill. – MonkeyZeus May 12 '16 at 15:25
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    A fallaciatrix, meaning "one who habitually abuses logical fallacies"? (Just kidding, please don't try using that term!) – Chris Sunami supports Monica May 12 '16 at 16:24

Consider "sophist"

The style of argument (which is all about winning, regardless of what is right or true) is called "sophistry"



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adept of one-upmanship


a put-down artist

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    I have never heard 'put down artist' but I like the term, thank you – user3421420 May 12 '16 at 14:57
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    @user3421420: If you google for “put-down artist”, you get 3K hits, the topmost being “Portrait of an Emotional Abuser: The Put-Down Artist”. – Mike Jones May 12 '16 at 15:30
  • This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Can you try to include reference or link (that can support your answer) and its essential part? – user140086 May 12 '16 at 15:31
  • @Rathony: Not only was it flagged, it was saluted with 6 up-votes. – Mike Jones May 13 '16 at 14:39
  • Oh, congratulations. My comment was made before you attracted the up-votes. You could have received more if you had edited your answer. It's up to you. I will upvote your answer if you edit it. Please note the flagging is done automatically by the system sometimes. – user140086 May 13 '16 at 14:44

Consider the verb befuddle

To cause (someone) to be unable to think clearly; confuse:

American Heritage

Similarly dictionary.com

to confuse, as with glib statements or arguments: politicians befuddling the public with campaign promises.

If you need a noun, you could use befuddler

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You might consider "intellectually dishonest," although it is not terribly catchy.

Intellectual dishonesty tends to involve the use of fallacious or manipulative tactics to defeat or make resign an opponent without approaching the opponent's argument or engaging with it in a meaningful way. It doesn't describe a type of person so much as it describes their debate habits, but as an accusation, it can be quite damning among serious academic-types.

You might also describe such a person as "disingenuous;" lacking in integrity or honesty, perhaps speaking solely towards discrediting or offending another without themselves believing or meaning what they say. Disingenuity and hypocrisy go together a lot.

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Consider equivocator. It means anyone who equivocates, which is defined as

To use language that is unclear, not easily understood or explained or of doubtful advantage, genuineness or moral rectitude with the intent to deceive or mislead someone.

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The phrase "intellectually dishonest" is rather common in debate circles.

According to its Wikipedia entry,

Intentionally committed fallacies in debates and reasoning are called intellectual dishonesty.

And according to its RationalWiki entry,

Common forms of intellectual dishonesty include plagiarism, applying double standards, using false analogies, exaggeration and overgeneralization, presenting straw man arguments, and poisoning the well.1

1 "Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well) is a fallacy where adverse information about a target is preemptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say"

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It depends a bit on the method they use. If they're taking "playing devil's advocate" to an extreme just to make you look like a fool, then probably, "sophist" is what you're looking for.

If they're focusing on the tiny, trivial, completely unimportant details when you are speaking about a broad topic, then maybe try "pedantic".

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"She's such a manipulator / wins all her arguments through manipulation / She won that debate through her manipulative tactics"


influencing or attempting to influence the behaviour or emotions of others for one's own purposes
"a manipulative boss."

"a ruthlessly manipulative woman"

synonyms: scheming, cunning, crafty, wily, conniving

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It's not clear this completely works but the type of argument you are describing is called rhetoric: "language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable"

rhetorician is described as a master of rhetoric but it's not a commonly used word (in my experience) and I get the feeling is doesn't quite have the negative connotation that you are looking for.

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