I wonder what the name of phenomenon when a speaker uses we or us to falsely (and, really, deceptively) attach oneself to a group (like when a politician says "hard times await us" in his public speech, when hard times obviously don't await him) or place false collective blame (like in "we went to Iraq", when neither him, nor most of his listeners have even been there) is.

I've learned about something called nosism and also I've read through "Atypical uses of we" section here, but seems that none of the listed instances of usage of we fits my description. If these are actually instances of nosism I would like to know the precise name of its category.

UPD: Doesn't have to be a matter of linguistics: I simply need to name this rhetorical device.

UPD2: I continued the search was lead to words like populism and demagoguery, but they seem either unfit or too broad for the purpose of understanding.

UPD3: In case of the political speech, would "political we" be a better name? Still waiting for more general (but not too broad) name.

  • It is normal to use "we" in a situation where the speaker considers himself to be a member of the group being discussed. Eg, if you were a fan of (choke!) the Green Bay Packers, it would be perfectly normal to shout "We won!" if indeed that team managed to end a game on top. This is different from the "royal we", et al, of nosism. (As to "unjustifiable", yes the technique is sometimes used by politicians to make them seem like "everyone else", but there really is no other standard way in English to denote the concept.)
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2016 at 20:09
  • @HotLicks: okay, but I'd like to know the precise name of the phenomenon.
    – The_Keeper
    Apr 17, 2016 at 20:13
  • Not clear that there is a name, linguistically, since it falls under the standard definition of "we". There may be a term in philosophy or rhetoric that applies, though.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2016 at 20:17
  • @HotLicks: well, perhaps I'm asking in the wrong sub. Could you point me to a more appropriate one?
    – The_Keeper
    Apr 17, 2016 at 20:19
  • 1
    @Lambie: But I do see that one of the references on the Wikipedia nosism page says that "royal we" is essentially a synonym. Still, as you commanded Hot Licks, perhaps you could "go do some research" and point us to it?
    – Drew
    Apr 17, 2016 at 21:10

2 Answers 2


Towards a term or phrase specifying the insincere usage of the inclusive we to promote a feigned consensus, and by the nose thus lead groups astray...

Pseudo-Formal: The inclusive first person plural in absentia.

Informal: The rogue's we. The Machiavellian we. We-selling. We-hawkin'. We minus one.

  • +1 We-selling, it is! Also a great marketing technique.
    – Kris
    Nov 30, 2017 at 8:09

The OED lists it as sense 2 of nosism. See below, with a recent example.

  1. With reference to an individual: the use of the word ‘we’ in stating his or her own opinions. rare.

2010 B. Zimmer in N.Y. Times Mag. 3 Oct. 18/2 Given the accumulated resentment of ‘nosism’ (using we for I, from the Latin pronoun nos), it’s little wonder that modern literary writers have rarely tried to write narratives in the first-person plural.

The first sense of nosism is more general:

  1. With reference to a group of people: a self-centred attitude, corresponding to egotism in an individual. rare before 20th cent.

1975 E. O. Wilson Sociobiol. 562 Nosism, hierarchical dominance systems.., and trance-induction are among the elements of religious behavior [which function] to circumscribe a social group.

  • Those just appear to be restatements of the royal we and the editorial we.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 17, 2016 at 22:06
  • I agree with @HotLicks, my case is like "I and all the people [when there's in fact no consensus, or even in-group]", not like "we" in a scientific paper or as royal name.
    – The_Keeper
    Apr 17, 2016 at 22:13
  • The OP is about the opposite of nosism -- here we want a name for the hypocritical use of an inclusive "we" in stating a group's opinion that is (secretly) not the public speaker's opinion.
    – agc
    Apr 18, 2016 at 1:43
  • @agc -- Actually, the OP is entirely unclear as to what he means, other than he apparently wants a derogatory term to use when discussing the speech of someone he disagrees with.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2016 at 2:33
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    @The_Keeper -- I gave you a proper name -- it's a "Churchill we". Churchill was certainly not going to go fighting in France himself, nor were most of his listeners. And, since that speech is so well known, "Churchill we" is a very easy term to explain and exemplify.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2016 at 12:05

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