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In another post's answer, somebody used the phrase

The company sends out the documents on the so-called 'Despatch Date'

and disliked my suggestions of 'defined' or 'term of art' in place of so-called, since he thought so-called could mean known as as well as the usual meaning of 'called so by some, but not by me'. I have two queries arising out of this:

How many people agree with the original poster, i.e. think the above phrase needs no amendment for so-called to mean "known as" or "defined by the company"?

And (assuming it does need to be changed), what is the single word that should replace so-called to mean known as? I know there is one, but it's driving me mad not being able to recall it.

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So you want a word with the meaning "known as" or with the meaning "called so by some, but not by me"? –  KitFox May 28 '11 at 2:18
    
Sorry, I want "known as". (now edited). –  TimLymington May 28 '11 at 12:16
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Using so-called is probably OK, but when there is ambiguity about meaning (as there is in this case, with one option having negative connotations), I tend to prefer to go with something less ambiguous.

How about:

"The company sends out the documents on the designated 'Despatch Date'"

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Nothing wrong with the poster, however if it needs changing, here are some words:

Are you looking for :

Nominal

As in "The company sends out the documents on the nominal "Despatch Date""

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1  
The original question does not have this meaning. –  rest_day May 27 '11 at 22:09
    
+1 for "nominal". Professed, on the other hand, doesn't really work at all. –  Marthaª May 27 '11 at 22:50
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Edit: I was thrown off by the quotes around Despatch Date and thought he was being sarcastic. I did a search and found the original post and yes, I too think the use of so-called completely changes the meaning.

Do you need to use "on" or "upon" when referring to dates?

so-called is used when the following word is used in a dubious way. For example, this is from today's New York Times. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/27/us/27patriot.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=so%20called&st=cse )

Two senators claimed on Thursday that the Justice Department had secretly interpreted the so-called Patriot Act in a twisted way, enabling domestic surveillance activities that many members of Congress do not understand.

So, yes the original post should be changed since the use of so-called clearly alters the meaning.

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If there is an implication that the dispatch date may not actually be accurate, which I believe "so-called" does imply, then possible replacements include alleged, nominal, ostensible, professed, purported, supposed, hypothetical

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Up vote. I know that the following is gratuitous. That's why I'm posting this as a comment, not an answer: my favorite is soi-disant ;o) It is terribly condescending! –  Feral Oink May 23 '13 at 2:04
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In the example given by the OP, the use of quotation marks around "despatch date" serves to mark the term for particular scrutiny and "so-called" is thus redundant.

It is standard editing practice to remove almost any instance of "so-called" as, like "[sic]," it is considered to be condescending to the reader, and over-editorial on the part of the author.

There are specific occasions in which both "so-called" and [sic] are appropriate and unobjectionable, but these are as rare as those that allow the clean use of an exclamation point; i.e., perhaps occurring two or three times in a decade.

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Are you sure on how rare the use of 'so-called' is? query.nytimes.com/search/… shows the use of so-called in New York Times in the last 7 days and there are 10000+ results –  rest_day May 27 '11 at 22:42
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Condescending and over-editorial are definite desiderata to some so-called writers, particularly on the NYT. (But it wasn't my downvote) –  TimLymington May 28 '11 at 12:15
    
I did not say that the usage is rare. I said that among the editorial set, it should be rare. –  The Raven May 28 '11 at 12:52
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