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.


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. – Luís Henrique Aug 4 '16 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 '17 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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.