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Do you know any good synonyms of so-called? I could not find any synonyms in dictionaries.

Thank you so much.

PS: I'd like to use it to say that a concept is commonly called in an inappropriate way.

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  • 2
    Do you mean the sarcastic usage e.g. 'our so-called leader is drunk again'? Feb 19, 2023 at 12:01
  • 4
    Sometimes (but not always), self-styled (and if you want to show off your linguistic skills, you can use the French version soi-disant). But we'd need a lot more detail of the exact context to see how things like [also] known as, alias, dubbed, moniker, pseudonym would work. Feb 19, 2023 at 12:21
  • 13
    It would be better if you could show an example of how you are using it in a sentence. So-called has several possible meanings, and context is everything.
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 19, 2023 at 13:09
  • 2
    to completely remove the possible insult in so-called, you can use "what is called".
    – Lambie
    Feb 19, 2023 at 15:54
  • 5
    Why do you need a synonym? The normal expression for your intended meaning would be "so-called". Feb 20, 2023 at 10:32

7 Answers 7

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It is difficult to suggest any direct synonyms because prefixing something with 'so-called' is done for a variety of reasons and can mean slightly different things. It can suggest that you personally disagree with the name, for any number of reasons. It can also suggest that something is inappropriately named, or that something does not live up to its name. It is sometimes used to indicate that something is a given (or taken) name rather than a description - an example of this is when the BBC (and possibly other news agencies) began blanketly referring to the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) as 'the so-called Islamic State' to emphasise that they were not describing the group as either a recognised state or as Islamic, which could offend those who believed they did not represent either.

Some suggestions for different contexts might be:

  • the alleged solution to the problem did not work.
  • the poorly-named 'Greatest Show on Earth' was not that great.
  • the supposed 'best man' gave a terrible speech.

If you are trying to suggest the name is inappropriate you could use almost any adjective, such as questionably-named, unaptly-named, badly-named etc.

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  • Thank you. I realise that further clarification was necessary. I'd like to use it to say that a concept is commonly called in an inappropriate way.
    – user167914
    Feb 19, 2023 at 15:08
  • 4
    @wangli - do you mean like 'the so-called koala bear, which is not a bear but a marsupial?' Feb 19, 2023 at 16:04
  • 1
    @wangli Do you mean you want to refer to a specific concept that has been inappropriately named, or something that has been called a concept when it isn't one?
    – Astralbee
    Feb 19, 2023 at 17:15
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    Another use of "so-called" you didn't mention is to indicate that the author doesn't expect the reader to already know a term – for instance, popular science articles will often say things like "The distance is estimated using a so-called cosmic distance ladder" if they don't want to give the reader the feeling that they should already know what a cosmic distance ladder is.
    – joriki
    Feb 20, 2023 at 7:00
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    @CCTO 'misnamed' would suggest either deliberate or accidental misnaming on the part of the namer. It doesn't really cover the most common use of 'so-called' which when another party questions the name or throws shade on it.
    – Astralbee
    Feb 20, 2023 at 18:39
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purported

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/purported

adjective

reputed or claimed; alleged:

We saw no evidence of his purported wealth.

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  • This is the first word I thought of after "alleged." But "purported" is better in this case, I think, because it doesn't carry the connotation of needing to be illegal or undesirable.
    – jrdevdba
    Feb 20, 2023 at 16:22
  • @jrdevdba This is basically the same as 'alleged' which I mentioned. Neither of these words alone are a substitute for all uses of 'so-called' as usually used to denote that something has yet to be proved. Your example even supports that. Something could later be proved and cease to be 'purported'.
    – Astralbee
    Feb 20, 2023 at 18:42
  • @Astralbee Actually I think "alleged" and "purported" differ enough in connotation to prefer one over the other in certain cases. Alleged is accusatory and comes from the accusing side, whereas purported is applied more generally to questioning anything put forward as true or correct. The OP seems to be talking about someone misusing a concept - in that case I would pick purported over alleged, only because alleged is so often used in a legal or criminal sense. vocabulary-vocabulary.com/dictionary/purported.php
    – jrdevdba
    Feb 23, 2023 at 15:22
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Do you need a synonym? Sometimes quotes do as well. To adapt the examples from @Astralbee

  • the "solution" to the problem did not work.

  • the 'Greatest Show on Earth' was a bit ordinary.

  • the "best" man gave the worst speech.

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  • For a verbal equivalent, there’s the phrase “quote-unquote”. Feb 20, 2023 at 11:40
  • And there's air quotes !
    – Fattie
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:45
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    This is commonly called scare quotes. In fact that wikipedia article even says it's used in a way 'similar to preceding a phrase with the expression "so-called"' Feb 21, 2023 at 23:49
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putative

1: commonly accepted or supposed
2 : assumed to exist or to have existed

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putative

ostensive or ostensible

1: intended for display : open to view
2: being such in appearance : plausible rather than demonstrably true or real the ostensible purpose for the trip

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostensible

There's also "widely believed to be" or "widely accepted".

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To highlight that the "actual" (or original) sense of the term does not align with common usage, the word misnomer can be useful.

Context is everything. In addition to the other suggestions, hackneyed and much-maligned might suit the situation.

Nobody uses "beg the question" in the original sense of petitio principii anymore, and everybody nowadays treats it as a synonym of "raise/engender the question." Do I complain? Yes, I do.

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    I resent being called “nobody”. 😛 Feb 20, 2023 at 11:37
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    @TimPederick Nobody uses “nobody” to mean nobody anymore.
    – Davislor
    Feb 20, 2023 at 15:21
0

Soi-disant:

: self-proclaimed, so-called

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  • 1
    I first encountered this phrase in Robert Heinlein's writing. I'm not sure I've ever seen it anywhere else.
    – jeffB
    Feb 22, 2023 at 15:36
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    @jeffB It’s rare, but one more recent example was an article mocking a political opponent as hanging out “among the soi-disant sophisticates.”
    – Davislor
    Feb 22, 2023 at 15:53
  • "soi-disant sophisticates" is possibly the shortest self-mocking phrase I've yet encountered.
    – jeffB
    Feb 24, 2023 at 1:38
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These can be used as alternatives, but they don't strongly imply wrong usage compared to "so-called", apart from no.3:

  1. also known as (a.k.a.)
  2. colloquially known as
  3. mistakenly known as
  4. usually known as
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