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Devil’s advocate

May 11, 2014

I was at a training day yesterday and in the course of one session, some fellow piped up and said: “Can I just play devil’s advocate a moment here?”

Devil’s advocate! How I hate that expression. Originally, it meant someone appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to present arguments against the canonisation of a person nominated for sainthood. The office was first instituted in 1587, according to wikipedia, and the Latin term for it is advocatus diaboli. But in modern parlance, “Can I play devil’s advocate?” means “Can I waste everyone’s time by arguing for something neither I nor anyone else here believes in, in a pompous, verbose manner, trying to show off how clever I am?” 

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One Comment
  1. We seem to use it here around the coast of the Bay of Fundy with something akin to the original intent: To argue against something most everyone is for, in part (precisely) to stimulate sober second thought.

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