I didn't know that the word infamous could be used in a positive way. Do you have any comments on this?


  • Mike Pence used Infamous "I Have a Dream Speech" to help ...
  • It was 2½ years ago, in July 2016, when King infamously said this: “This whole ‘white people’ business ...

Would it be correct to say that 'infamous' can be used for cases that have caused a debate or are controversial in any way?


The first quote you made is from a very low-quality politics forum (GagaDaily). It looks like an ignorant misuse of "infamous". You can't use that word in a "good" way. To use "infamous", about something well-known, is to say that it is a bad thing. It means "wicked, disgraceful, evil, despicable, very wrong" etc. There is no other meaning. To use the word to mean simply "well-known" or "controversial" is an error. To call MLK's well-known speech "infamous" is to make an extremely racist and bigoted utterance. Or possibly just being ignorant. What could be called infamous is Pence's use of the speech to further the ultra-right agenda. Many people think that what Steve King said in July 2016 really was infamous.


adjective ​

famous for something considered bad:

The list included the infamous George Drake, a double murderer.
He's infamous for his bigoted sense of humour.

Infamous (Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Yes, there were newspaper articles written about Pence's bizarre borrowing of that quotation, but I'm not sure that the act could be called "famous" yet. That is to say, perhaps it should be: "What could be called infamous is Pence's..."
    – Juhasz
    Jan 22 '19 at 22:09
  • Thanks! I would then assume that authors have the power to choose what they write and what words they use, thus, allowing them to use infamous where others would not, because it can be justified from their standpoint. But as you say, they may be bigoted or ignorant. Am I right?
    – pilti
    Jan 23 '19 at 9:45
  • To call something infamous is always to call it bad, evil, wicked, etc. To use the word with another intended meaning is an error, potentially a dangerous one. There is no adjustment for 'standpoint'. Jan 23 '19 at 11:58
  • To be clear: if you say something is 'infamous', you either mean that you think it is very bad, or that it is generally considered very bad, and that you agree with that opinion. Jan 23 '19 at 12:08

It depends with whom one is identifying or showing solidarity:

if with the western civilization: this whole white people business

infamously will have negative touch.

if identifying with the afro-american people a positive one.

  • Albrecht, think again. 'Infamously' always has a negative connotation. Jan 23 '19 at 11:56

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