1

There's a word I remember looking up but can't remember. Something like:

When someone says something that's insulting but when you call them out on it, they pretend they don't know what was said was insulting. Instead, they argue that they meant it in a different context when they really didn't.

For example:

A: "Wow he's smart"
B: "What do you mean he's smart?"
A: "What? I meant they're very intelligent."

  • 1
    Could it be patronising? – A Gibb Oct 25 '18 at 9:49
  • no but it could be attributed with patronizing someone. I've added an example. – lou Oct 25 '18 at 9:52
  • Thanks. I don't think the example is insulting though, it looks the person is just clarifying their point. Would a better example be "Wow, he's smarter than he looks!" "What do you mean?" "What, I didn't mean it like that." – A Gibb Oct 25 '18 at 9:56
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    I've changed the title, just asking for "help" does not tell anyone what you are looking for. If I've misinterpreted the request, edit it yourself and change the title into something more meaningful and useful for everybody. – Mari-Lou A Oct 25 '18 at 11:16
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    We don't know if you want the "word" for the person's behaviour, or the person themself. We don't know if it's an adjective or a noun that you're looking for. We don't know how you would use the word because you didn't supply a sentence where this word would be used. – Mari-Lou A Oct 25 '18 at 11:29
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I think dissimulate would work:

verb (used with object), dis·sim·u·lat·ed, dis·sim·u·lat·ing.

to disguise or conceal under a false appearance; dissemble: to dissimulate one's true feelings about a rival.

verb (used without object), dis·sim·u·lat·ed, dis·sim·u·lat·ing.

to conceal one's true motives, thoughts, etc., by some pretense; speak or act hypocritically.

In your example A is dissimulating. or alternatively you could use the synonym in the definition, A is dissembling.

But if you are looking for an adjective rather than a verb, you could say the person is disingenous -- in the sense of falsely or hypocritically ingenuous.

adj lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

1

I think you are describing passive-aggressive behavior.

Passive–aggressive behavior is characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.

Here's a description of one of the symptoms of passive-aggressive behavior:

On the other extreme, insincere compliments are a very sneaky way to throw in some nasty insults. They are hoping that you will react badly to the insult. The intention being that if you say anything about the cheap insult, they will tell you that you misinterpreted them, and they were only trying to pay you a compliment. Then you doubt yourself and, if anyone else was present, your behaviour looks unreasonable.

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It's a form of verbal plausible deniability.

The first sentence ("Wow, he's smart") is said with enough tone and inflection to imply sarcasm, yet the literal contents of the sentence, the words, are innocuous enough. It leaves the speaker with the possibility of denying the insult implied by tone. That is, any denial of the intention to cause offence is plausible or believable.

  • I've seen this used in politics and espionage; I am not sure it is suitable for petty office bickering. – michael.hor257k Oct 25 '18 at 12:57
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Obtuse? It's often used in the phrase "deliberately obtuse".

See the example in definition 1 from the Oxford English Dictionary:

obtuse
Annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand.
‘he wondered if the doctor was being deliberately obtuse’

Source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/obtuse

  • ... but this only works when "deliberately" is in front of it. Otherwise, this is the opposite of what OP is looking for. Someone who is obtuse is not feigning ignorance. – only_pro Oct 25 '18 at 21:38
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I believe these will do.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/disingenuous

  1. Assuming a pose of naïveté to make a point or for deception.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/duplicitous

  1. Given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech.

~fie

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