Is there a term for saying something in a sarcastic manner but you actually mean what you're saying?

All the time I say things sarcastically even though I mean what I say. Or if I want to tell the truth but I know no one will believe me I say it sarcastically even though what I'm saying is true. For example, everyone thinks I kissed my friend but I didn't. So when asked I reply sarcastically, "No I never kissed her", insinuating that I did because of the sarcasm in the response. But in reality I'm telling the truth that I didn't. It's almost like a false sarcasm?

  • 2
    Why are you saying it with a sarcastic tone - are you intending people to believe the wrong thing? That would make a difference in what term to use for this.
    – LarsH
    Nov 28, 2012 at 3:44
  • 1
    Sounds like real sarcasm to me. I'll echo LarsH's question: "Why are you saying it with a sarcastic tone?" It sounds as if you need some serious social counseling, not advice about English usage.
    – user21497
    Nov 28, 2012 at 3:49
  • I think you mean irony rather than sarcasm.
    – ONOZ
    Nov 28, 2012 at 9:16
  • 1
    Brutal honesty? Nov 28, 2012 at 12:27
  • See english.stackexchange.com/questions/48227/… though I'm not sure I'd say it was a duplicate Nov 28, 2012 at 16:14

6 Answers 6


See Grice's classic paper "Logic and Conversation" for the general framework employed.

When you speak with a sarcastic or singsong voice you are flouting the maxim of manner ("avoid obscurity of expression"). When you flout a conversational maxim, and you are assumed to be a cooperative conversation partner, it is assumed that you are trying to communicate something other than the literal meaning of your words (viz., it is preposterous for you to think that I would have ever kissed her) in an indirect way (perhaps it would be impolite for you to angrily deny the charge). Of course, this is the wrong inference, but unless people knew this habit of yours they couldn't help but making it.

In such a case you are taking advantage of the fact that the meaning that you cause people to falsely believe is deniable, so you are being deceptive. If on the other hand you are with your friends who know this habit of yours, and they are not deceived, then it is just that your circle has a rather ornate and perhaps exclusive way of calculating conversational implicatures.

  • 2
    You might want to highlight the words that will satisfy the OP's request. Nov 28, 2012 at 5:00

It's called "kidding on the square". Reference Stephen Colbert's show with James Franco (timestamp 2:37):

Kidding on the square means I'm joking but I really mean it.


It sounds like you are being "coy", as in definition #2:

Coy   /koi/ Adjective

(2) Reluctant to give details, esp. about something regarded as sensitive.

— Oxford Languages via Google


It sounds as if you were sneering while telling the truth:

smile or speak in a contemptuous or mocking manner:
‘I see you’re conservative in your ways,’ David sneered

There's also the element of reverse psychology.

  • Sneering doesn't sound like the right term for this at all, although I think you're onto something with that reverse psychology suggestion.
    – J.R.
    Nov 28, 2012 at 8:42
  • @J.R. I think I agree with you :) Let me see if I can conjure up an alternate suggestion. Nov 28, 2012 at 13:40
  • 1
    The conjuring is apparently not working well.... Nov 10, 2017 at 19:56

Passive aggressive is the more apt term I can apply to my husband's ex-wife. It sounds sarcastic but she means every negative word.


I think your trying to say that when you give an example of a truth, you over exaggerate the example? If this is the case this is a normal thing and it’s called an HYPERBOLE.

  • No. If one exaggerates, one is not telling the truth, and vice versa. The truth can be outrageous, but that doesn't mean speaking about what makes it so is exaggerating. Also: "over-exaggerate" is a pleonasm.
    – Joachim
    Aug 18, 2022 at 10:26

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