Background: Person A and Person B have been in a romantic relationship for many years.

Person A gives Person B a large sum of money, specifically telling them that that Person B can use this money wherever they like. Person A also emphasized that:

“I don’t need to know the specifics about where or how you’ll use this money. I don’t want to be controlling.”

A few months later, Person B tells Person A that they are completely broke. Person A is confused; as they had just sent a large sum of money. Person A asks where it all went and it escalates into an argument. In this argument, Person B uses the exact same words Person A had used before, but against them:

I didn’t know I was supposed to tell you all the specific details about how and where I spent it!”

My question is, what is the word for what Person B is doing? Using the exact words they said against them when that’s not the case — they are asking because it was money that was supposed to last many years.

Hope that makes sense. Thanks, and sorry if I made this post wrong, I’m very new around here but I hope to stay around and contribute!

  • 1
    Can you provide another example?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 13:29
  • @Centaurus (sorry this is my first time on English stackexchange, I hope I’m doing this properly). Yes I can provide another example, but I think it’s better if I can clarify this one if there’s something you don’t understand in it.
    – Lana
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 13:45
  • 1
    The interpersonal element here may be stronger than the Engish question. Could be gaslighting, could be a misunderstanding. Not wanting to appear controlling is not the same as no strings attached. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:08
  • .@Lana I've retagged because you're asking for the name of the device which Person B is employing (re-using A's words). A staple of [*-request] questions is a sample sentence with a gap for the word you want. Here, it's not precisely clear whether you want a verb or a noun, really. Another example might help to address @Yosef's comment, too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:08
  • 1
    More than likely, another example would help us find whether there is a word for the situation.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


I suppose you are interested in the somewhat rhetorical device that consists in uttering more or less sarcastically the negative of a sentence that someone used once in the way of providing clues, advice, directives, etc., this repetition being intended to make more prominent the contradiction involved ; this sort of repetition "in the negative", if not said more or less sarcastically is just factual, and it seems difficult to associate with it a rhetorical device. If it is said in a tone that comes through as reproachful and contemptuous, it can be characterized in several ways.

One way to put that is to speak of a sarcastic evocation.

  • "I didn’t know I was supposed to tell you all the specific details about how and where I spent it!” said B in a sarcastic evocation of A's words when A granted B the money.

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