Hoping to find the exact term for situations like the following:

Example: An online profile mentions that the person is drama-free. If they were actually drama-free, they would not need to mention it in the first place.

Another example: You walk into an interview and immediately tell your potential employer that you are not a robot.

Another example: Mentioning that the project details are subject to OPSEC is a violation of OPSEC.

I've heard several phrases that allude to the concept: "Don't make it a thing if it isn't a thing." "Keep it self-evident."

It's an oddly-specific type of catch-22 where it's taboo to bring something up in conversation without the other person becoming suspicious as to why you even mentioned it.

Similar concept explained here (tvtropes - don't explain the joke)

  • Welcome to ELU.SE. This site strives to provide well researched, intriguing questions. Lofty, single word requests as yours are required to provide an example sentence about the way the word will be used. Take the tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good questions.
    – Helmar
    Oct 3, 2016 at 8:59
  • 1
    Related: term for being defensive (where the expression '... protest too much ...' is suggested). Oct 3, 2016 at 9:08
  • The first rule of Fight Club ...
    – bib
    Oct 3, 2016 at 13:03
  • In fact, it goes without saying that the first rule of Fight Club ...
    – bib
    Oct 3, 2016 at 13:04
  • You could call it a suspicious non-sequitur perhaps. vocabulary.com/dictionary/non%20sequitur Oct 3, 2016 at 13:28

1 Answer 1


Procatalepsis (or sometimes "prokatalepsis") is the denial of something before it even comes up; it's applicable to any of those "I know what you're going to say..." denials.

But for subtle accusations by others, you're probably looking at apophasis.

These don't cover the specific case of denying the opposite by negating a word though, so what you're describing may be a variety of litotes.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.