Is there a collective word or words I can use in writing that can describe phenomenon where someone asks a question they have no intention of knowing the answer purely for a negative purpose?

I can reply to them when they ask me. You are ______. Or your are using _____ (psychology trick)


Before smartphones when someone asked "do you know the time". They meant it as they needed to get somewhere or turn on the television to watch a TV program. They are not wearing a watch.

Today if a person asks you do you know the time; they mean something else. There is no point in asking for the time if I just saw you use your smartphone.

It's like a "unique sales pitch" but this means to much with sales and doesn't indicate the hypocrisy of it. I don't know their motivation yet, they don't mean it, I 100% know its a lie. It is like a hidden question. They lure you in with question that has a totally different goal without being interested in the answer. Like when a tourist goes to a city and a scam artist asks "What country are you from" to build rapport before they start with their scam. They don't mean it and have no interest in knowing the answer.

Scam or dishonest doesn't fit as it is before the scam or dishonest part. It is a pitch to lead up to something else. Almost like being probed for weakness. Psychological trick to seperate the weak from the herd.

What I tried:

The closest word I can think of is circumlocution (the act of speaking around)

You are circumlocuting doesn't sound right.

The meaning isn't exact as it means taking around when I want to say you are saying something intentionally false with another goal in mind.

dilly dallying means waste time through aimless wandering or indecision so also doesn't fit.

There is a saying "Talking past each other" but it means two sides are raising different issues, where in this case it is one sided as I am not a participant in a discussion. It's almost like I want to say you are "talking through me"

2 Answers 2


The person may be trying to waylay you. Lexico has


Stop or interrupt (someone) and detain them in conversation or trouble them in some other way.
It is easy to imagine travellers being waylaid here, even now, so imagine what it must have been like in the 17th century..

If there is no motive, the person might be trying to strike up a conversation. Lexico has

strike up (or strike something up)

1.1 Begin a friendship or conversation with someone in a casual way.
he struck up a conversation with her in the lobby

It can also be called an opening gambit and a typical one for British people is

Do you think it will rain today?

when they have already seen the weather forecast.


In sales terms, this is known as an "in". Don't ask me how I know this as I have never been a salesperson.


John: I'm good at closing deals but I have trouble making contacts in the first place.

Mary: What you need is an "in". Try to find something in common and chat about that for a while.

If you Google sales techniques You will see how devious some some of these techniques can.

So, your comment could be, "You're not being genuine. You're just trying to find an "in".

Unless people have sales training, they won't necessarily understand this term but a lot of con-artists have been salespeople at some time of their lives so they would understand it. If the person ask, "What's an in?", just say "Work it out for yourself" and walk away.

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