• Two people are in an argument. One person, upon noticing their point has been refuted, says something like "I was just playing devil's advocate" or "I was just trolling."

  • A person says something insulting, and attempts to pad it by going "Haha, I'm just joking."

  • Bobby makes a mistake, and, upon being called out, justifies it by pointing out someone else's actions—and claiming they were the cause of Bobby's actions, which lead to the mistake

All of these things share something in common, and I want to refer to them in a similar way. It has something to do, maybe, with avoiding responsibility? I want to say "cowardly," but that's far too strong of a phrase.

If I wanted to say...

Arguing your point, and then saying "Haha, just kidding. I'm just playing devil's advocate" is a bit... [word]

What could [word] be?

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    for the first two examples, the term "backpedalling" might be useful (not posting as an answer because of the fact that it doesn't fit the third) – Destructible Lemon Aug 8 '18 at 4:21

Consider the word disingenuous.

disingenuous adjective (Definition ... for English Language Learners) : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere - M-W

disingenuous adjective Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does. ‘I thought both men made some good points and both said some evasive, disingenuous things.’ - ODO

The term addresses the sense that the excuse is fake.

Your sample sentence would look like this:

  • Arguing your point, and then saying "Haha, just kidding. I'm just playing devil's advocate" is a bit disingenuous.
  • but disingenuous gives a sense that someone is hiding their knowledge and pretending that they don't know. It means you are intentionally hiding what you know. Here, the person OP is referring has no knowledge at the first place. Just a thought! – Ubi hatt Aug 8 '18 at 5:08
  • Also, here OP is not playing devil's advocate. – Ubi hatt Aug 8 '18 at 5:42
  • @ubi It’s the backtracking that’s disingenuous. In the OP’s examples, the speaker takes one position, and when challenged, makes an excuse. The OP doesn’t seem to think much of the excuses - that’s what justifies the term. – Lawrence Aug 8 '18 at 5:58
  • Oh!, I learnt today that disingenuous also mean backtracking. Thanks! – Ubi hatt Aug 8 '18 at 7:06
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    @ubi Disingenuous doesn't mean backtracking - it's a description of the 'fakeness' in the kind of backtracking used. (Also, it's not a description of the OP; it a term the OP requested to describe the argument used by the "you" behind the "your point" referenced in the OP's example.) – Lawrence Aug 8 '18 at 8:55

Maybe squirrely (my family’s antonym for steadfastness), indecisive, wavering, vascillating, opportunistic, irresolute? Hmm none really fit... I see this quality often, I feel there needs to be a word in the language for this. Watching for an answer...

Perhaps negationist, revisionist, post facto, or retroactive?

Noncomittal? Avoidant?

‘seems like a bit of a pivot’?

‘bit convenient’?

‘bit meek’ would be effective in communicating that the offender is avoiding confrontation.

‘bit confusing’ would be effective in communicating that the offended party questions the veracity of the face-saving comment.

This reminds me of an episode of Chelsea Lately where she has Russel Brand on the show: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ig48AOadxd0 (start at 5:00). She makes a comment that he has ‘REALLY come together’ (looks really great after 6 years of sobriety). She uses a sarcastic tone, likely trying to make fun of his odd dress, hoping he will have a sense of humor about his apparent eccentricity. He replies ‘sometimes I can’t tell if you’re being acerbic’. She waffles as the OP describes a ‘coward’ would. I hope there is a word to call out this spineless behavior.


The first thing that came to mind for these scenarios was scapegoat. Noun 1. a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency. So it could be used like "haha just kidding, I was looking for a scapegoat". I also found that it is acceptable to use scapegoating "haha just kidding, I was scapegoating again".

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