Just as a rhetorical question has the name "rhetorical", I believe there are types of answers with names, for example "non-answer". Furthermore, I believe I have come across their names before, but forgotten the terms, and cannot find them again with any amount of searching.

What do you call the type of answer of A0?

Q0: How do you do X?

A0: You should not do X. You should do Y instead. Here is how to do Y.

Also, closely related: What do you call the type of answer of A1?

Q1: How do you do X?

A1: I think you actually wanted / meant to ask "How do you do Y?". Here is how to do Y.

  • 1
    There Is no term for such an answer. There is a term for not answering the question: "ignoratio elenchi". This is how you ignore the question: It's a beautiful day for a little jaunt around town.
    – Conrado
    May 6, 2020 at 4:37

3 Answers 3


That answer or activity would be an alternative or alternate. It might also be called a counter proposal.

  • These both sound plausible. I do not think either one is the term I had previously come across, but in the absence of a better answer, this answer is acceptable. I will give it a while to see if anything else comes up. Thank you for answering. May 6, 2020 at 3:58

From the responding individual's point of view, you may have an XY problem. Wikipedia says:

The XY problem is a communication problem encountered in help desk and similar situations in which the real issue, X, of the person asking for help is obscured, because instead of asking directly about issue X, they ask how to solve a secondary issue, Y, which they believe will allow them to resolve issue X. However, resolving issue Y often does not resolve issue X, or is a poor way to resolve it, and the obscuring of the real issue and the introduction of the potentially strange secondary issue can lead to the person trying to help having unnecessary difficulties in communication and offering poor solutions.

In How To Ask Questions The Smart Way, under "Questions Not To Ask," Eric S. Raymond writes:

Q: How can I use X to do Y?

A: If what you want is to do Y, you should ask that question without pre-supposing the use of a method that may not be appropriate. Questions of this form often indicate a person who is not merely ignorant about X, but confused about what problem Y they are solving and too fixated on the details of their particular situation. It is generally best to ignore such people until they define their problem better.

  • This is excellent information. It also helps me in a way that I did not divulge when asking the question. I wanted the terminology to ask a question in another community, to which I anticipate: - getting answers to other questions - or having people say I should not do that - or misunderstand my intentions If I do not give the background to my problem, then as your answer highlights, I risk doing a sub-optimal solution because nobody could point out a better way. But if I do give the background to my problem, I risk getting solutions which are acceptable to them, but not necessarily me. May 6, 2020 at 4:46
  • Basically, being able to refer to the types of answer I am anticipating and address them in my question may help to get better answers. Sometimes, you need a way of politely saying "I would like an answer to my literal question, even if it is a terrible way of doing it" without completely stifling answers suggesting better approaches which could actually be better in my mind and make me forget about my original question. It's a balance. I will read through your links more thoroughly to see if they can provide me wisdom on how to phrase such a question. Thank you for answering. May 6, 2020 at 4:52

I found this about "Frame Challenge" in my favourites in my browser, so "Frame Challenge" may well be what I am thinking of:


However, I would still be interested in hearing if there are answers which are more correct.

The user "doppelgreener" mentions in their answer (https://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/a/6843) that "Frame Challenge" is Stack Exchange jargon, and not recognised elsewhere. Joel Harmon's answer to another question gives some other terms which may be applicable outside of Stack Exchange: https://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7579

I am unsure if the fact that these questions are in Role-Playing Games Meta Stack Exchange, and not English Stack Exchange, should imply that the answers are only applicable within the context of Role-Playing Games. Because of this, I will not accept my answer as the answer, unless others can confirm that the answers are applicable to general English.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.