Misuse of Misnomer

Oh. My. Word. In one day, I’ve had to correct more than one talking head–possibly by throwing my socks at the television–as said heads tried to impress with their intellect and redress some concept being debated.

“That’s a misnomer,” they’d say and then continue with their debate.

Unless whatever it was they were talking about was named incorrectly, the word they should have been going for is “misconception.”

Misnomer comes from the 15th-century Anglo-French mesnomer, which means “to misname or wrongly name.” See:

mes- “wrongly” + nomer “to name,” from the Latin nominare

Misconception means “a mistaken belief or a wrong idea.”

Misnomer may be more fun to say, but please, don’t say it unless you’re correcting a name. Otherwise, you’ll look like an illiterate fool.

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