What is the word that is used to describe the oversimplification or non-academic discussion of a complex issue?

Typically, I'm looking for a word like pedantic, or puerile, except that the word covers the fact that the discussion is particularly non-academic. I know that such a word exists since I have used it before, but it has skipped my mind.


13 Answers 13


I propose "Wetherspoonian". e.g. Brexit makes perfect economic sense on a Wetherspooonian level.


With regard to the context you have provided, you might want to consider the word "facile" -


  1. (especially of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial.
  2. Having or revealing a superficial or simplistic knowledge or approach: a facile and shallow intellect.

(From Oxford)


Depending on your desired connotation, you might consider:


: adj considering or presenting something in a simple way, especially a way that is too simple

from Cambridge

The implication here is that the simplification is so great that key elements have been stripped away and what remains is no longer accurate.

  • This would be the word to use if lay people knew it.
    – nomen
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 18:07
  • @nomen, yeah, that's a fair observation
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 22:11

From the definition of facile: "superficial" covers it pretty well.

2 a: concerned only with the obvious or apparent: SHALLOW

b: seen on the surface: EXTERNAL

c: presenting only an appearance without substance or significance

(Merriam Webster)


Perhaps you are looking for "in layman terms"

(idiomatic) Phrased simply, without jargon. — Wiktionary

  • 1
    Also consider the adjective lay, as in "a lay discussion of a complex topic." See definition 3 of 7 at dictionary.com/browse/lay: "Belonging to, pertaining to, or performed by the people or laity, as distinguished from the clergy; not belonging to, connected with, or proceeding from a profession, especially the law or medicine." Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 3:40
  • Further back, lay is connected to the root *leHd- which signifies something military, cp luitenant, should not be confused with Ger Leute "people", nor Dutch lijfeigene "serf", although a historic conflation about loan Ger leih-, cp. Danish leje, Fr louer, "Pg alugar "borrow, rent", has been considered in accademia for leibeigen; also cp Fr loy "law", Lat lex, legem (vs Ger legen "to lie, lay" in many ways), or Leumunt "good standing; judgement by peers" (thus cp gossip?). Last but not least, Proto Indo European society is deemed tripartite, at least.
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 12:05
  • At least, layperson is often understood as amateur. A distinction practitionor vs theoretician lends itself well to the comparison, as layman is traditionally used in terms of law, church law as it were, ironically as user, applicant in contradistinction to practitioner of law. Anyway its often understood to be just (the rechtschaffender Bürger "upright citizen", if rechtskundiger Laihe "knowledgable layperson" is not to be a contradiction in terms; I'm sorry that I am not well acquainted with the commonwealth jargon). So the pejorative is well ambiguous, almost metaphoric.
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 12:17

Dumbing it down

is a phrase that immediately came to mind to me - though not one word per se.


Consider shallow.

With respect to the context that you have cited, shallow, here, would mean - "not exhibiting, requiring, or capable of serious thought" — Lexico.

Example sentence: A complex political issue was discussed in a shallow manner by the lower House of the Parliament.


I might use one of several adjective such as "vague", "informal", "casual", or "simplistic" to describe a discussion of superficial views, ideas, or concepts applied to a complex topic (depending on the specific occasion or intended emphasis).

His interpretation was outrageous. Our informal discussions, just casual discourses of the topic, became an arsenal of discrediting views with his added academic detail.






How about "rudimentary", as in "My father has a rudimentary understanding of computers".

Definition of rudimentary:

1 : consisting in first principles : fundamental - "had only a rudimentary formal education" — D. J. Boorstin

2 : of a primitive kind - "the equipment of these past empire-builders was rudimentary" — A. J. Toynbee

from Merriam Webster

Note that "elementary" could also fit.


Armchair, as in:

Armchair Philosophy


Armchair Climate Science

When I saw the title of the question, this seemed to fit perfectly. I also didn't see it posted anywhere here, so I'll mention it in case it is the word that you remember.

  • I like this a lot. A similar term would be “bro science”, as in, “My running coach says I need to eat more carrots so I can see better when running track, but I think that’s just bro science.” Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 17:12

Personally, I'd go with 'in layman's terms' as suggested above but if you need a single word then exoteric might work, which means suitable for the general public and is the opposite of esoteric which means likely to only be understood by a small group of people with specialized knowledge


Unprofessional review?


Below or contrary to the standards expected in a particular profession.

Therefore you need to get in quick while they are offering a professional service for an unprofessional fee.

Examples -

"One of the main pitfalls is picking a development partner who is inexperienced and unprofessional."

"Complaints are mounting about the unprofessional job the contractors are doing."


A high level overview? If looking for a business term.

High-level means "general" or "big picture." [...] A "high-level overview" is one that doesn't cover details. It provides a very basic and general explanation or presentation of the material/subject.



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