I'm trying to think of a proper term for when someone, for example, calls attention to something in a self-aware way (that's their fault or that they're perpetuating) without actually seeking to fix it? I know that "lampshading" is often used for media (tv/film) but I was wondering if there is a technical term for this, particularly in an academic context. Something where a person or body admits fault less to hold themselves accountable, and more to deflect criticism ahead of the curve. Thanks!

  • 2
    In an academic setting, "lampshading" would be less than credible. Can you please show an example sentence of an academic saying this? An example sentence of how this word would be used. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 20:30
  • The context is unclear, but one phrase (that I can't find support for) is "with a nod to ..." It means that the writer/speaker acknowledges another reference. Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 23:22
  • @WeatherVane I think you might have misread my post. I agree that the term "lampshading" is not a proper term, which is why I was looking for alternatives.
    – wutherinqs
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


There are many answers for this depending on what is being done and why it is being done.

If they're mentioning a problem and seeking to blame someone else they're buck passing, passing the buck, playing the blame game. (Wikipedia: buck passing) In such a situation the problem may be a hot potato, too hot to hold and passed from person to person (Cambridge). They may also be creating a scapegoat, called scapegoating, and trying to blame them for everything. This is connected with offering up a sacrifice: "one of a pair of kid goats that is released into the wilderness, taking with it all sins and impurities, while the other is sacrificed". (Wikipedia: scapegoat)

If they're acknowledging a problem but clearly not going to do anything right now (not even blame anyone), they're putting it off (Cambridge), putting it on the backburner (Cambridge), sticking a pin in it (Free Dictionary), procrastinating. These terms aren't always used with problems, but can be used for any task or piece of work you don't want to do. Most of these are obvious, but you can read about putting a pin in something on ELU here.

If they're acknowledging a problem and gesturing towards a solution without doing anything substantial, or claiming a solution exists without doing anything to prove that it really does, they're hand-waving. Wikipedia defines this as "a pejorative label for attempting to be seen as effective – in word, reasoning, or deed – while actually doing nothing effective or substantial". It is often used in debates where people say something vague (and wave their arms about), but also occurs in attempts at logical proofs where one step is replaced by "you can see that's obvious but I'm not going to prove it right now..." Wikipedia also suggests a reference to stage magicians using hand gestures as misdirection.

If they're fussing over something minor while a big catastrophe goes ignored, they're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic (Macmillan). Related to this is bike-shedding (Wikipedia: law of triviality), a common phenomenon in organisations where people obsess over a small detail and don't devote time to a big thing because they're afraid to have an opinion on major things but can argue for hours on trivia.

If they're mentioning a problem at a time it's likely to be ignored they're burying bad news. This expression is known from the time British government officials used the 9/11 attacks in the USA as a good time to release embarrassing documents that had to be published at some point. ("Spin memo row duo quit", BBC, 15 Feb 2002)

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