I noticed today that you can't really argue with a three-year-old. Three-year-olds lack the experience and the facts. On the other hand, when someone tries to argue with someone in a position of authority; someone who clearly has lots of experience and intelligence, simply due to the fact that they have been elected to such a high position; sometimes it feels about the same as arguing with the three-year-old.

Also, I remember working as a camp counselor many years ago, and one of the things we used to do as counselors was, if a kid asked when free time was, we would answer their question with a question; for instance:

Kid: "When is free time?"
Counselor: "I don't know; when is free time?"

So this makes me wonder; is there a word for a person who fools someone into thinking that they are crazy, for purposes of saving the time of getting into an argument?

  • 'gaslighting' is related but for the other direction, making someone think they're crazy and so shouldn't bother trying to argue.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:09
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    It's known as 'feigning madness'. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:52
  • 1
    Are you looking for a verb, an adjective, a noun? Please add an example sentence to clarify.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 16:12
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    Play dumb To pretend that one has no or little knowledge (of something); to act ignorant or uninformed about something If someone likes this suggestion they are free to post it. I am, unofficially, in semi-retirement. :>)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:20
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    You can also feign ignorance. That is a bit less strong than feign madness. Play dumb is excellent but quite informal -- so you wouldn't want to use it with the official who's playing dumb. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Though this is a bit different, "crazy like a fox" may be applicable? But I think that phrase may imply more malevolence than what you describe.

  • Welcome to ELU. Please make sure that when making suggestions you back them up with references, I have never heard of "crazy like a fox" and hence have no idea whether it's a good answer or not.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 16:12

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