Is there a name for answering a direct question with useless information as in: “what time is it?” ‘ oh -we have plenty of time.’ “What time is it?” ‘ oh -the game starts at one’ “Do you want a cup of tea?” ‘Oh-are you having one?’

Digress doesn’t cover it. Obfuscate isn’t applicable. What is the name and what is the problem?

Besides my impatience.

  • PS thank you amen
    – Tychometer
    Aug 22 at 13:42
  • 3
    Since you've tagged this as a single word request, you should include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used. Aug 22 at 13:42
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    These examples are definitely forms of indirect implicature, as though a fuller conversation was elided between question and answer. Or the question is not taken as literal at all and translated into by the questioner into what is really being asked. As to label for this, I'm sure there's at least one formal technical term but I don't know what it is.
    – Mitch
    Aug 22 at 14:47
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    Does this answer your question? What do you call a response which does not address the question?
    – Stuart F
    Aug 23 at 9:49
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    @EdwinAshworth Moderators have had nothing to do with this, so far. Looking at the timeline, it has been two gold-badge holders who reopened the question (once each), using the same privilege you did to close it. Perhaps that's the explanation you're asking for.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 25 at 7:58

A broad heading for such tactics is:

dodging/dodging the question/question dodging


To evade (a question, charge, etc.) by trickery, cleverness, etc. Webster's New World

If you dodge something, you deliberately avoid thinking about it or dealing with it, often by being deceitful.

dodge the question

He dodged the question. The Sun (2010)

Nor does he dodge the awkward question - whether smaller schools can be justified economically. Times, Sunday Times (2008) Collins

Question dodging

Question dodging is a rhetorical technique involving the intentional avoidance of answering a question. This may occur when the person questioned either does not know the answer and wants to avoid embarrassment, or when the person is being interrogated or questioned in debate, and wants to avoid giving a direct response. Wiki

A lot of the other coaches, when I asked them about playing quarterback, they'd hem and haw. They'd dodge the question. ref.

In practice there are are variety of ways of performin covert question dodges. For example, if the political figure is asked a specific question, that is a question about some narrow issue or point, then he or she may skirt around it by giving an answer to a more general question concerning a broader topic... ref.

(I also see ducking a question.)

The OP asks "What is the name and what is the problem?"

I believe dodging is the name. Analyzing the problem could take us far afield of ELU :-)


The common word for this is deflection. The easiest way to find examples is to google the word, followed by the name of a politician or someone else whose name is currently linked with some scandal.

Here’s a headline example from MSN: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/greg-abbott-s-demagoguery-and-deflections-are-putting-texans-at-risk/ar-BB1ej1W8


Depending on context, you may well call it "an evasive answer". In this case, the answer is intentionally vague and sometimes a rhetorical device.

If there was no reason to be cagey, you might say the answer is simply "vague"

  • evasive tending or seeking to evade; avoiding the issue; not straightforward

You might try "mismatched" but it's unlikely there's a better term and in fact, the example Answers given are all appropriate to their context.

Digress or obfuscate, pivot or approach avoidance all imply deliberate intent, which is in no way clear in the example. (Pragmatic topic loss is not something I've heard of, or follow.)

The given answers might be useless but that can't be determined from the examples.

Irritating as it is to many of us, those responses are at least as likely as "correct" statements such as "It's 3:45 pm" or "Yes, please. I'd love a cup of tea" in every-day English… Other Members might speak for other languages.

Moving to use, rather than form of language, the examples given show exactly how most people really think…

Most of us don't at all care whether the time is 5:34, but whether we have plenty of time to catch the train, or how long remains before the game starts.

Most of us will enjoy a cup of tea at least more, if not only when the host is having one.


It’s probably not so much avoiding the question ss simply dismissing it as not worthy of specific attention.

So the word is dismissive.

The questioner is assumed to be motivated by something other than the direct question. He doesn’t really care about the time—he cares about missing the game. He doesn’t really care about whether you want a cup of tea—he wants one himself.


I would call this casual conversation. It is extremely common. You see a friend carrying lots of bags with the names of shops on them and you ask "Have you been shopping?" The friend knows that you are not actually seeking an answer to that question (as the answer is obvious) and interprets it as the start of casual conversation and so might reply "Only 20 shopping days to Christmas". They are not deliberately dodging the question.

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