This might take some background. Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange, like any other site, sometimes receives charged or leading questions, and people don't want to respond to the lead laid out for them and want to in some way challenge the premise of the question. Sometimes the question doesn't make sense such that an answerer may feel the only valid response is "mu", or they feel it's an XY problem and refuse to answer the actual question and instead tackle the problem they think lies behind it: for example, "my friend keeps kicking me, what shin guards should I buy" would likely get answered with "tell your friend to stop kicking you."

Is there a term, phrase, or expression we use in English to concisely describe this type of response to a question, where people refuse to take on the question at face value and instead tackle some deeper premise behind it or take it on from a different angle?

I ask this because at some point circa 2014 it became commonplace for us to call these "frame challenges" or "challenging the frame of the question", but I can find no evidence at all that anyone except us calls it that. I've googled for both terms with and without quotes and only found design challenges, and Google Ngrams has questionable results — exceptionally slim usage of "challenge the frame" even by its standards, and no recorded usage of "frame challenge" whatsoever.

Sometimes our site's regulars who are familiar with this jargon will say at the top of answers "I'm going to challenge the frame of your question", which is a problem for random internet googlers or new users who may not know what that even means. I've seen people ask a handful of times what that means (most recently leading to a meta being asked).

I'd like to make sure that whatever we're calling this, it's something that actually makes sense to people, and isn't strictly internal technical jargon we invented between ourselves which nobody else understands.

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    I've heard variations of "I disagree with your premise" or "Your premise is flawed". This is the first I've heard of "challenging the frame" of a question. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 18:43
  • 1
    I like "frame challenge," though. Useful.
    – Xanne
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 19:35
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    You can find no evidence that anyone else uses this expression -- please describe how you looked for evidence. Search terms you used, for example. Save experts from doing unnecessary rework.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:13
  • @MetaEd Added those details. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:56
  • @RobbieGoodwin I'm not sure what gives you the impression I see there as being a difference. (There isn't?) The point of my question is to ask about how people generally describe this kind of thing concisely. I've updated the bolded section, I hope that helps clarify. Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


It can be called an oblique answer

I didn't find a dictionary definition, but plenty of fun usage examples.

Can expressive writing change emotions? An oblique answer to the wrong question.

The title of this chapter, Psychology Press, Editors: Dirk Hermans, Bernard Rimé, Batja Mesquita, pp.183-186.

It wasn’t too long ago, Kitty Pope was at the University of Illinois Urbana-­‐Champaign talking to library science students (something she really loves doing!), and they asked her “Kitty, how would you define excellent customer service?” She rambled off some oblique answer, but on the drive home, she began to really formulate the “excellent” answer.

from strategicsalesconsulting.com website - http://strategicsalesconsulting.com/articles.html

The film’s title references Rumsfeld’s famous, oblique answer to a journalist at a 2002 press conference questioning whether US forces in Iraq could be justified by the 'war on terror' – were there terrorist groups, harmful to the US, in Baghdad?

Amnesty International UK / Blogs Into the ether - https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/ether/unknown-known-errol-morris-donald-rumsfeld-documentary-film

  • 4
    I think of an oblique answer not so much as one that challenges the assumptions of the questioner, but as one that needs some work to unpack and to see how it provides an answer, perhaps also that requires some patience, as the actual answer is approached in a roundabout (or oblique) way. Sometimes it comes from thinking aloud, sometimes it is a ploy (typical of academe?) to challenge the other person.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 23:01

How do we describe answering a question tangentially to how it was put forward?

You are accusing the asker of a making a complex question fallacy.


  • From Logically Fallacious - The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies:

    "Complex Question Fallacy

    Latin: plurium interrogationum     English: complex question

    (also known as: many questions fallacy, fallacy of presupposition, loaded question, trick question, false question)

    Description: A question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something but protects the one asking the question from accusations of false claims. It is a form of misleading discourse, and it is a fallacy when the audience does not detect the assumed information implicit in the question and accepts it as a fact.


  • ThoughtCo - Complex Question Fallacy

    "A complex question is a fallacy in which the answer to a given question presupposes a prior answer to a prior question. Also known as (or closely related to) a loaded question, a trick question, a leading question, the fallacy of the false question, and the fallacy of many questions.".

  • Philosophy Dept. of Lander.edu - Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic Complex Question

    "Abstract: The fallacy of complex question is discussed, and several typical examples are presented.

    1. Complex Question: the fallacy of phrasing a question that, by the way it is worded, assumes something not contextually granted, assumes something not true, or assumes a false dichotomy. To be a fallacy, and not just a rhetorical technique, the conclusion (usually an answer to the question) must be present either implicitly or explicitly.

    2. Other names for this fallacy include: fallacy of loaded question, many questions, false question, leading question, trick question, and fallacia plurium interrogationum.

    3. The fallacy of complex question is usually (but not always) in the form or a question. The fallacy involves the asking of a question that tacitly assumes the truth of a statement (or occurrence of a state of affairs) not generally granted or not given into evidence.

    4. If an argument is present, the question, itself, must be evaluated as a statement, i.e., a verbal expression implicitly having a truth value.


    The informal structure of the fallacy is sometimes used to invoke some kind of action in accordance with the following:

    Informal Guide to Complex Question
    How or why are related statements p and q the case? (Where either p or q or both are unwarranted assumptions.)
    So statement p or q or both are assumed to be true (often for the sake of affirming something else).

      [Note: That link provides the most examples, compared to the other links.]

  • Wikipedia - Complex Question

    "A complex question, trick question, multiple question or plurium interrogationum (Latin, "of many questions") is a question that has a presupposition that is complex. The presupposition is a proposition that is presumed to be acceptable to the respondent when the question is asked. The respondent becomes committed to this proposition when he gives any direct answer.".

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