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I want to say something like "You can't announce him a cheater because it's speculation." I know that announce is the wrong word, so I need something to replace it. I thought of proclaim, but I don't think it sounds right, either. Help?

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Proclaim is fine, but you might just say call. The second part of the sentence, though, also needs work. Do you mean that you can't call him a cheater because it's just speculation at this point? –  Jim Dec 10 '12 at 18:14
@Jim yes that is correct –  noob Dec 10 '12 at 18:16
@noob: then drop "the". A newly introduced topic is indefinite in English unless it is explicitly identified, so because of the speculation that ... is OK, but otherwise it's because of speculation. –  Colin Fine Dec 10 '12 at 18:30
@ColinFine point noted –  noob Dec 10 '12 at 18:37
@Jim: I think even denounce is a little stiff/dated, but proclaim sounds positively antediluvian to me in this context. –  FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 19:37
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1 Answer

The phrasing you're looking for is...

“You can't denounce him as a cheater...” (to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil)

Note that you need to include "as" in such constructions. In principle you could just use pronounce (which doesn't need "as"), but that's far less common, and sounds a bit dated/formal/stilted to me.

Also note that cheater wouldn't normally be used by competent speakers in this way (it is on the increase among younger people, but it's still mainly a marker for "non-native speaker"). Given that denounce is a relatively "up-market" word, you'd be more likely to see it used with, say, fraudster, swindler, trickster, etc. Or just plain cheat (in short, anything but cheater!)

As pointed out by @Jim in comments to the question, in popular parlance today you'd probably be much more likely to hear call or label, rather than denounce. And as pointed out by @Peter below, cheater is far more common in US than in UK usage (and it's a regularly-inflected form), so my carping about it should be taken with a substantial pinch of salt!

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One might say: "You can't denounce him as a cheat …". –  donothingsuccessfully Dec 10 '12 at 18:29
Thanks for the detailed answer but there is one more thing I need, what if context is not specifically negative, I used it just an example. What should be the preferred phrase in that case? –  noob Dec 10 '12 at 18:30
@noob: I'm not sure what you mean by not specifically negative. In practice, I suspect people don't often have real-world situations where they might want to convey something like "You can't publicly endorse him as a good person just because of one isolated good thing about him", but I suppose endorse is probably as good a word as any for that context. And as for "neutral" ways of putting it - why would anyone ever need to say anything at all if they don't have either a positive or a negative attitude to the label being cautioned against? Maybe Don't pigeonhole him? I don't know. –  FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 19:30
I believe the word "cheater" is fine in American English (Ngrams says that it's twice as common here as in British English). –  Peter Shor Dec 10 '12 at 23:55
@Marthaª The meaning of 'cheater' seems pretty contextual to me - if I was watching a monopoly game and one player called another a cheater, I wouldn't immediately assume adultery. Maybe the assumption of the 'adulterer' meaning is a regional thing? –  user867 Dec 11 '12 at 1:03
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