I have noticed that, with certain kinds of problems - political problems spring to mind - some people (who are not in a position to make decisions about the problem) are prone to suggesting a certain kind of non-solution. These solutions are along the lines of "I know how to fix problem X. Let's enact law Y, which has only a small impact on X, but severely punishes group Z, whom I hold personally responsible for (causing/failing to solve/objecting to my preferred solution to) the problem."

I think this is akin to, but not equivalent to, schadenfreude. The act of suggesting solutions is much like kibitzing, but kibitzing is intended to be neutral-to-productive, whereas the word I'm looking for would be explicitly about negativity. Is there a word for it?

EDIT: Let's try this somewhat anonymized example. "The best way to close the deficit is to confiscate the profits of politicians who give paid speeches about their 'great service'."

Here's another one that I made up: "There should be a law that slow people lose their driver's license for life."

Another: "People who litter should get their garbage delivered right onto their front lawn."

  • If we don't critically reason about the statement at all, then it works;
  • If we think about it too much, then it's quickly clear it can't work or is totally infeasible;
  • The speaker knows that it's infeasible, or at least thinks so; it is not a genuine attempt to solve the problem;
  • It rains righteous punishment on those that are either at fault, or failing to improve the situation;
  • The audience is expected to enjoy listening to the statement; the statement isn't targeted at anyone present, but at third parties who aren't in the room.

(If you think any of the above are reasonable statements, then please don't comment about it. I'm not here to start arguments, just to try and find a word.)

  • @jprete: you mean something like, "Yea I know how to lower healthcare costs: kill all smokers"?
    – tenfour
    Jul 30, 2011 at 15:17
  • @Tenfour: That's exactly it.
    – jprete
    Jul 30, 2011 at 15:21
  • 2
    Maybe 'smartass' covers it.
    – tenfour
    Jul 30, 2011 at 16:16
  • @tenfour: you should post that as an answer so I can upvote it!
    – jprete
    Jul 30, 2011 at 17:10
  • This question of mine is kind of related, and the answer, sophistry, could be made into sophist if you think it suits.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 30, 2011 at 17:24

6 Answers 6


"Smartass" is the best I can come up with (both adj. and verb), and it fits quite well I'd say. I don't know if there is a word that exists that's more specific to your scenario though.

  • Can we start a petition to find a specific word? I had a girlfriend once, who always went "He/she ought to be shot", for the smallest things, said with such a condescending attitude that I just went; "Geez, calm down". This behavior is totally a thing. Aug 5, 2017 at 2:15

A couple of adjective options:

Vindictive -- Having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge.

Spiteful -- Showing or caused by malice.

Both of these convey the idea that the proposed "solution" isn't so much about fixing the problem, as getting back at someone out of sheer vengefulness.


Perhaps their suggestions are sarcastic, snide, or facetious?

  • It's close, but I don't think it captures the malice behind the suggestions. The intent isn't merely to make fun of someone, but to take joy in the idea that they are paying for their own mistakes. So it's a blend of sarcasm, frustration, and vengefulness.
    – jprete
    Jul 30, 2011 at 14:55

Straw man arguments work somewhat in the way you described. It has the "negative" feel that you're looking for. These arguments are meant to mock the opponent. This is a bit more general than your hypothetical with X, Y, and Z.

However, your other example, "There should be a law that slow people lose their driver's license for life.", sounds like a rant and not like a straw man argument.


Egghead and its synonyms comes to mind: know-it-all, rocket scientist, the all-knowing (sarcastic tone).

  • 1
    That seems really far off. Eggheads propose solutions that work in theory but not in practice. Know-it-alls propose solutions for personal credit. Rocket scientists propose solutions that nobody else understands. All of them propose solutions that they expect will work, whereas the essence here is that the solution is not meant to work in any meaningful way.
    – jprete
    Jul 30, 2011 at 15:02

I believe this is a form of irony; Socratic irony in particular.

Socratic Method

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