For example, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which could be seen as neither democratic, republican or being for the people.

Or Bernie Sanders being called a democratic socialist when his political views align with the Nordic model and maybe social democracy as confirmed by The Economist.

Is this a kind of association fallacy?

It seems a bit thinner than that and the validity of the argument solely rests on the meaning of the word without verifying if the labelled corresponds to the label.

2 Answers 2


A name that aptly describes the person or thing it refers to is an aptronym; one which describes the opposite attributes is an inaptronym.

There is a hypothesis that when a person is named a certain way, they tend to behave in a way that fits their name; this is called nominative determinism. There does not seem to be a term describing the opposite idea; if you like, you might call it “nominative indeterminism”.

  • What would the "opposite idea" be? That behaviour of people is not related to the label that is imposed unto them (which could be called a kind of indetermism), or that people would behave in the opposite way to what implied in the label (eg, a person labeled a "Democrat" in the US context starts to oppose abortion rights and to support second ammendment rights because of being labeled a Democrat). The latter case would fall under "nominative determinism", although of a paradoxical kind of determination. Aug 4, 2016 at 15:10
  • Thank you for bringing up these notions @George Law. What is a word to describe the fact of calling something red blue? Or the assumption made that someone is, say, a pilot because they said they were a pilot when they weren't necessarily one?
    – James P.
    Feb 1, 2017 at 1:22

The fallacy might be in the nature of knowledge itself. From a scientific viewpoint, giving a name to something is not necessarily knowledge. This is the whole issue about classifications, e.g. in biology.

See the famous remark of Richard Feynman Names don't constitute knowledge.

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