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This may be as simple as a synonym for hallmark, but with a negative connotation.

An example: A security consultant publishes an article on security practices that is so egregiously erroneous that it reflects poorly on 3rd parties who cite the article or author. The poor reflection is what I'm trying to describe.

Black mark is close, but I'd like to find a word taking a stronger stance - one could have multiple black marks that are overcome by strong qualities, while this word/phrase is effectively the end of the discussion.

Maybe deal breaker, but less vernacular.

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Why not just say it's egregiously erroneous? –  FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 6:03
    
I must say I like the idea of a hallmark for incompetence. Microsoft Certified Stupid Engineer, perhaps? –  Brian Hooper Jan 17 '12 at 8:37
    
Despite the fact that you've accepted a good answer among many, I still find it unclear what you want. A 'black mark'/'stigma'/'stain' is not the "end of a discussion", but a 'deal breaker' is. Is it a vague association of negativity that you want or a no go/show stopper? –  Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 18:45
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7 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The word you may be looking for is stigma:

stigma, noun

: An association of disgrace or public disapproval with something, such as an action or condition [AHED]

: a mark of shame or discredit [MW]

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See this ELU question for going from the opposite direction starting from stigma. –  Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 18:16
    
@Mitch Interesting; the mark of Cain vs a halo for the opposite. –  Gnawme Jan 19 '12 at 18:20
    
'...cast a pall over' or 'a dark cloud over' or 'a stain on' are phrases that seem to fit here, too. –  Mitch Jan 19 '12 at 18:45
    
@Mitch Ah; I was so locked into "a word" that I overlooked phrases entirely. –  Gnawme Jan 19 '12 at 19:49
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I would go with discredited as an adjective, discredit as verb or noun. From TheFreeDictionaryOneline:

dis·cred·it
tr.v. dis·cred·it·ed, dis·cred·it·ing, dis·cred·its
1. To damage in reputation; disgrace.
2. To cause to be doubted or distrusted.
3. To refuse to believe.
n.
1. Loss of or damage to one's reputation.
2. Lack or loss of trust or belief; doubt.
3. Something damaging to one's reputation or stature.

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Perhaps "fatal flaw?". Indead, you can put "fatal" before many constructions in order to turn them into deal breakers. So "fatal black mark" works, and as a bonus, it reminds people of Treasure Island.

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+1 for the bonus. –  harlanlewis Jan 17 '12 at 16:40
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You can use the words "inadequate" , "inefficient" or the phrase "lions led by donkeys" meaning leading to loss because of incompetent and indifferent leaders.

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This isn't exactly what I'm looking for, but I am going to have to start using "lions led by donkeys." –  harlanlewis Jan 17 '12 at 16:32
    
@harlanlewis I think the phrase "the blind leading the blind" is better understood. –  Blazemonger Jan 17 '12 at 16:38
    
Half the fun is how unexpected it is :) –  harlanlewis Jan 17 '12 at 16:39
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Disreputable may be close to what you're looking for.

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Kiss of death, "Something that is ultimately ruinous, destructive, or fatal" is a possibility.

One might also refer to the original article as toxic. The word means, literally, "Having a chemical nature that is harmful to health or lethal if consumed..." but used figuratively could suggest an article is lethal when quoted. Note, synonyms of lethal such as deadly and fatal might also apply.

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I like the word "toxic" -- the phrase "toxic assets" became popular after 2008 to describe real estate securities that nobody wanted on their books, and anyone familar with that phrase would find it appropriate for a reference that nobody wants to mention. –  Blazemonger Jan 17 '12 at 16:37
    
Toxic is definitely appropriate. –  harlanlewis Jan 17 '12 at 17:16
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atrocious
The word also has a commonly used sense of 'full of errors'.

adjective /əˈtrōSHəs/ 
Of a very poor quality; extremely bad or unpleasant
- he attempted an atrocious imitation of my English accent
informal : atrocious spelling, atrocious writing, atrocious driving

In typical cases as in your context, usually the diplomatic way to say something is too erroneous is to call it specious.

spe·cious /ˈspēSHəs/
Adjective:
Superficially plausible, but actually wrong: "a specious argument".
Misleading in appearance, esp. misleadingly attractive: "a specious appearance of novelty".

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