You say something intentionally incorrect so the person will correct you about a small detail, which actually confirms something else.

What is this called?

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  • Despite the question mark, this is not a question. What do you actually want to know? – TimLymington Jun 16 at 18:00
  • An example would help. – Andrew Leach Jun 16 at 18:15
  • Hello Sixie. I don't think there is an idiom for that. – Old Brixtonian Jun 16 at 18:27
  • 1
    We call that baiting. – Phil Sweet Jun 17 at 1:30
  • 1
    I guess when lawyers do it, they are laying a trap. – aparente001 Jun 17 at 21:22

In philosophy, depending on the intention behind it, this is called the Socratic method.

From its Wikipedia page:

In Plato's early dialogues, the elenchus is the technique Socrates uses to investigate, for example, the nature or definition of ethical concepts such as justice or virtue. According to Vlastos, it has the following steps:

  1. Socrates' interlocutor asserts a thesis, for example "Courage is endurance of the soul", which Socrates considers false and targets for refutation.

  2. Socrates secures his interlocutor's agreement to further premises, for example "Courage is a fine thing" and "Ignorant endurance is not a fine thing".

  3. Socrates then argues, and the interlocutor agrees, that these further premises imply the contrary of the original thesis; in this case, it leads to: "courage is not endurance of the soul".

  4. Socrates then claims that he has shown that his interlocutor's thesis is false and that its negation is true.

In this form of dialogue, in short, the intention is for a teacher to communicate understanding to a student by presenting a false statement. As the student argues against the falsehood of the statement, they arrive at its opposite—which is what the person who made the false claim intended to have happen from the start.

In less formal situations, where there isn't a clearly defined student-teacher role, it's still possible for somebody to employ a similar technique, and lead somebody else into supporting what they believe by initially stating its opposite.

  • I appreciate your time and the knowledge. – sixie6e Jun 17 at 11:03

This could be an example of playing Columbo.


Sometimes an attorney will pull a “Columbo” act and look like she is fumbling around trying to organize her notes or “thinking” of the next question when in reality, she is intentionally inserting a pregnant pause.

It's based on a TV series where the protagonist, named Columbo, bumbled along and elicited important information and contradictions by appearing to ask really stupid questions.

  • I see what you're getting at but not really the same. – sixie6e Jun 17 at 11:03

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