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.

  • So you want a word with the meaning "known as" or with the meaning "called so by some, but not by me"?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    May 28, 2011 at 2:18
  • Sorry, I want "known as". (now edited). May 28, 2011 at 12:16
  • I agree with you on "so-called" casting doubt. Assuming the reader knows what a date is, why not simply no replacement word - "The company sends out the documents on the 'Despatch Date'"? Jul 16, 2022 at 19:09

6 Answers 6


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'"


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

Are you looking for :


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

  • 1
    The original question does not have this meaning.
    – rest_day
    May 27, 2011 at 22:09
  • +1 for "nominal". Professed, on the other hand, doesn't really work at all.
    – Marthaª
    May 27, 2011 at 22:50

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.


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

  • 1
    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! May 23, 2013 at 2:04

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.

  • 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, 2011 at 22:42
  • 1
    Condescending and over-editorial are definite desiderata to some so-called writers, particularly on the NYT. (But it wasn't my downvote) May 28, 2011 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, 2011 at 12:52

So-Called implies that there is a person or persons who are claiming this to be true, but have not given enough evidence for it to be fact. "Self-Proclaimed" is of the same nature. SOMEONE believes it to be true, but whether or not it is actually fact has yet to have been proven. Original Poster's snippet implies that the author did not want the reader to believe that the given date was the actual date, but instead a time in which he was told or led to believe the date is supposed to be.

You need to figure out of the date is supposed to be "so-called" -alleged- or "preset" -predetermined-

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