I need a word to fill in this blank:

LIZZIE Of course not. But, which supervillain is your dad?

CANDI I shouldn’t say anything. (Looks back at her taco salad, affecting __________ )

LIZZIE Shouldn’t say anything? You know who our parents are.

KEN Yeah, Candi. That’s so not cool.

CANDI No, you guys don’t understand. (Looks back up at them, then bites her lip and looks around the room. She leans forward, prompting Lizzie and Ken to do the same.) I’m kind of undercover. My dad sent me here with a job, and I’m positive he’ll see me telling anyone about who he is as jeopardizing that job. Preferably, I’m not even supposed to be using my real name. But, I felt more comfortable with it so I begged my dad to not make me change it. (Leans back against the seat, then tilts her head to the side) But, perhaps, if we were a team, you know, allies, friends, etc. He would be okay with me telling you who he is.

This probably does not provide nearly enough context, given that this is an excerpt from a play I am writing, so allow me to elaborate:

Candi is a conniving character, and she is in the process of manipulating these other two characters into doing what she wishes. To do that, she's trying to come off as timid and hesitant as if she really wants to tell them who her father is, but can't. In a sense, she's playing innocent. (Hence the lip-biting and head tilting in her mini-monologue) So, what word would I use in the blank that has a similar meaning to innocence/intimidation/hesitation? I know it's a word I've used before, but I'm drawing a blank.

(For further details on the specificity of the word I'm looking for: The parenthesis indicate that this will be a word written in a stage direction for the actress)

I did look at the answer to this question What is a word that means "someone who pretends to be your friend but is actually your enemy?" but that just gave more words to describe Candi. I'm looking for a word to describe the person she's pretending to be. This will drive me crazy until I find out.

  • The emotion you're trying to express is complex and subtle. How about 'antidisestablishmentarianistically'. It is somewhat metaphorical, but I think you'll find it works pretty well in that context.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 15:39
  • I'm pretty sure this sort of question is against the site guidelines, but do you mean reluctance?
    – JonLarby
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 15:40
  • BTW You should check your bio: you have either misspelled or misused a word. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


You might be looking for diffidence, which can mean both lack of confidence in oneself and reluctance to confide in others:

diffidence, n.

  1. Lack of confidence or faith in someone or something; distrust; mistrust, misgiving, doubt. Also: an instance of this; a doubt, a misgiving. Now rare except as merged with sense 2.

  2. Doubt in one's own ability, merit, or judgement; lack of self-confidence; modesty or shyness resulting from this. Also: an instance of this.
    Now the usual sense.

—"diffidence, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. Examples omitted, bolding added.

I think the dual implications of modesty and reluctance to confide sound pretty close to what you're looking for.

If you want something closer to pure distrust, perhaps reticence would suit. From vocabulary.com:

Reticence is a kind of reserve, wanting to avoid communication and not wanting to offer any more information than is necessary.

Finally, if you wanted to slightly modify your stage direction, coyly would also fit your intentions:

adjective, coyer, coyest.

  1. artfully or affectedly shy or reserved; slyly hesitant; coquettish.

  2. shy; modest.

  3. showing reluctance, especially when insincere or affected, to reveal one's plans or opinions, make a commitment, or take a stand.

"coy." Dictionary.com. Bolding added.

So, either

CANDI I shouldn’t say anything. (Looks back at her taco salad, affecting diffidence.)


CANDI I shouldn’t say anything. (Looks back at her taco salad, affecting reticence.)


CANDI I shouldn’t say anything. (Looks back coyly at her taco salad.)


The word that comes to mind for me is 'bashfulness' - I'm not sure if it exactly conveys the intimidation, but I believe it covers innocence and hesitation. It goes with the lip-biting etc that you describe.


I would expect disinterest, or perhaps indifference there: She is pretending that she has lost interest in the topic, and is ready to move the discussion to a new topic. (Of course this is simply to pique her companions' interest even further.)

  • Disinterest is not applicable. Disinterest means to have no bias or without favoritism. The Pulitzer Prize is given for "Distinguished, disinterested reporting". Judges are supposed to be disinterested in the cases they hear.
    – Theresa
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 3:39
  • @theresa that's one of its meanings, the other is "lack of interest; indifference": merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinterest
    – Hellion
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 3:49

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