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Where did the term 'devil's advocate' come from

01:00 Mon 26th Mar 2001 |

asks jayne b-t

A. Originally, a Devil's Advocate (from the Latin Advocatus Diaboli) was a Roman Catholic church official who had been appointed to argue the case against a proposed canonisation or beatification of a candidate for sainthood. (The supporter was, until 1983, called Advocatus Dei - 'God's Advocate'.) The Devil's Advocate's formal title is Promoter of the Faith (Promotor Fidei), which isn't quite as sinister.


Q. How is it used outside the church
A.
Properly used, it is someone who makes things seems worse that they actually are - but only for the sake of argument and not because he or she is cynical by nature.


Q. Why would they do that
A.
To liven up a dull and uninteresting conversation, perhaps, a Devil's Advocate might choose to disagree with everyone when they talk about something they all like.


Q. If you say you can't see what all the fuss is about when everyone raves about Russell Crowe, for example
A.
That's right. You may be a fan, but it makes things more entertaining when you have a proper debate about his looks/acting ability/affairs, rather than just agreeing that he's gorgeous.


Q. Can you play Devil's Advocate and say something is better than it really is
A.
More and more these days, a Devil's Advocate is just someone who argues the opposite way, whether that means talking something up or down.


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By Sheena Miller

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