I'm going to make an example for clarity.

Suppose you have a problem (you've been fired) that you don't want to tell anybody about, but you need help or a piece of advice to solve it. So, you decide to talk with a friend about it saying that this problem is not yours but a friend's. For instance:

'I know a friend who's struggling with money right now. You know, he's just been fired and doesn't know how to pay the bills.'

It is probable that the person who's listening knows that it's not about a friend, but that is irrelevant.

What I'd like to know is if there's a term--either a verb, noun, or expression--to refer to this kind of way of sharing a secret indirectly.

  • Can you say if there is a term in your language?
    – James K
    Aug 21, 2022 at 12:50
  • @JamesK. No, I have no idea even in my native language.
    – Fra
    Aug 21, 2022 at 12:53
  • So what would you say in your native language if you wanted to express this idea? Would you use a descriptive phrase like "a conversation about a hypothetical friend" ?
    – James K
    Aug 21, 2022 at 13:02
  • @JamesK I'm sorry. I don't know that, either. If I had to explain this in my native language, I would have to give the same long explanation that I wrote in my OP. Maybe it just doesn't exist. Or if it does, it's only known in academic circles, not used in everyday English.
    – Fra
    Aug 21, 2022 at 13:18

3 Answers 3


There is no term in everyday English. You can easily describe the situation.

I was talking to Joe, and he was asking me about a "friend" who had been fired. I think it was a subterfuge, and he was talking about himself. Nevertheless, I remained tactful and discreet.

Note the use of scare quotes on the word friend. In speech this word would marked by intonation to indicate that we are being ironic.


This has been asked and answered on English Stackexchange. There were several answers but the accepted one was prosopopoeia:

a figure of speech in which an imaginary or absent person is represented as speaking or acting

Keep in mind this is a very academic and formal term. I doubt the average person knows what it means (or has ever heard it before)


There isn't a term in use for it that I'm aware of. But the phrase "asking for a friend" (or "just asking for a friend") is itself common, and will usually be interpreted as meaning the situation you are describing.

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