It's sneak in an awkward question time!
December 21, 2010 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word or phrase which describes the asking of a personal question, which would never normally be asked in normal circumstances, and isn't particularly relevant, during an argument or discussion on a particular topic?
posted by devnull to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Overly personal non sequitur? Intrusive non sequitur?
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:05 PM on December 21, 2010

If the purpose of the question is to attack ("Have you stopped beating your wife yet?") then it would be called an 'ad hominem' argument, meaning an argument against the person. For example, you are fat therefore whatever you say must be wrong.

If the purpose is to rattle you and make you lose your chain of thought, then I think that would be considered an interrogation tactic: throw in a off-beat question to put the responder off his or her stride.
posted by PickeringPete at 4:12 PM on December 21, 2010

Something like a red herring?
posted by lampshade at 4:13 PM on December 21, 2010

Could be, but is not necessarily, an ad hominem.
posted by phrontist at 4:17 PM on December 21, 2010

posted by MonkeyToes at 4:20 PM on December 21, 2010

posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:24 PM on December 21, 2010

If it's an intentionally hurtful question, I'd say "hitting below the belt." But it really depends on what kind of question it is, how it's asked, the context. Do you have an example?
posted by Rhaomi at 4:29 PM on December 21, 2010

Pimping or baiting are the terms that come to mind for me, but Pickering Pete's answer seems the most sound.
posted by patronuscharms at 4:39 PM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: Several common logical fallacies might describe this approach, including Poisoning the Well introduces (irrelevant) personal information in order to discredit an opponent, and Ad Hominem in which one attempts to discredit an opponent's argument by attacking their character.
posted by googly at 4:40 PM on December 21, 2010

A personal question asked during a hostile debate would normally be an ad hominem, eg, you undermine the man so you don't have to undermine the argument he made. Something which is asked which makes no sense/is irrelevant is a non sequitir.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:47 PM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: Side-tracking. Diverting. Muddying the waters. Conflating. Introducing an irrelevant thesis or line of argument. Distracting. The Chewbacca Defense.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:47 PM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: This is stratagem #38, from Schopenhauer's 38 Stratagems for winning an argument.

Stratagem #8 is a broader expression of the same.
posted by alms at 5:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Sometimes opponents presented with two horns of an ugly dilemma take neither, preferring to throw sand in the bull's eyes, or sing the bull to sleep, or even deny that the dilemma is valid; sometimes, they are right, and the best thing for all is to consider the Mu koan.

Thus, Mu.
posted by paulsc at 5:32 PM on December 21, 2010

Best answer: "Impertinent" is pretty good, especially if you take it as the literal opposite of "pertinent," rather than as it's commonly used (to mean "cheeky" or "nervy").
posted by scratch at 5:43 PM on December 21, 2010

In short, the answer is no, there's no word for precisely this, but there are many words that might apply, including all the foregoing as well as specific terms for rhetorical questions (erotema), rebukes in the form of a question (epiplexis), asking and answering your own questions (anthypophora), and the informal fallacy ignoratio elenchi, which may take the form of an ad hominem but which is also more generally the term for drawing an irrelevant conclusion, Chewbacca defense / red herring / non sequitur style.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:45 PM on December 21, 2010

posted by fluffycreature at 7:43 AM on December 22, 2010

Awkward turtle?
posted by althanis at 12:04 PM on December 22, 2010

« Older Can I have a moderately lively, none-too-crowed...   |   Woman's Professional Laptop Sleeve/ Case Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.