Eg, what is a toddler doing when they force a square peg through a round role? More abstractly, what would you call it when you try to describe something via a model that doesn't really fit, and you make lots of stretches to try and get the situation to make sense with the model.

Eg: "I know we claimed this phenomenon could be described by theory X, but in retrospect we really just <BLANK>ed our observations into theory X's model".

edit: And just as I'm typing this I come up with "shoehorn". I'm pretty sure that's what I was trying to come up with. Still, I'd be interested in knowing if people think that actually does make sense here.

  • 2
    I was going to suggest "shoehorned" before reading your last paragraph. :)
    – user173639
    May 6, 2016 at 0:28
  • Shoehorned implies a tight fit, but a fit none the less. I'd suggest "I know we claimed this phenomenon could be described by theory X, but in retrospect we really just fed our observations into theory X's model without prior validation". All models are wrong, some are useful - George Box.
    – Phil Sweet
    May 6, 2016 at 1:22
  • 1
    jammed. you jammed it into x's model.
    – Unrelated
    May 6, 2016 at 1:25
  • "Stuffed," "crammed," or, "though the model is not a good fit, it was the best of those tried" (echoes of @Phil Sweet's George Box quote).
    – KWinker
    May 6, 2016 at 1:41
  • May the force be with you! Anytime you force something into something else it means it didn't really fit there.
    – Robusto
    Jan 6, 2019 at 14:36

5 Answers 5


You might make use of the following idiom:

Procrustean bed - "a scheme or pattern into which someone or something is arbitrarily forced" (Merriam-Webster)

Procrustes was a figure from Greek legend who cut or stretched his guests to fit his bed.

If you need it as a verb, you might use the construction: __ was made to fit the Proceustean bed of __.

  • 2
    You might, but you wouldn't ;)
    – Unrelated
    May 6, 2016 at 1:24

ram - to push or put (something) into a position or place by force. More importantly, it means to force passage or acceptance of.

Your example - I know we claimed this phenomenon could be described by theory X, but in retrospect we really just rammed our observations into theory X's model

wedge - to force. (someone or something) into a very small or narrow place (literally or figuratively)

And there is always drive.


"I know we claimed this phenomenon could be described by theory X, but in retrospect we really just BLANKed our observations into theory X's model".

Retrofitted, (in which case change "in retrospect" to "in hindsight").

Retconned, (geeky, more suited to describing the ulterior politics of flexible official narratives and histories -- wouldn't be applicable to normal science, but might apply if a lab had become a real soap opera).

Adapted, (not slangy), altered, modified, mutated... choice depends on how one feels is about theory X.


(Shoehorned is probably fine...)


Actually, force is not a bad start. You could try "force fit," which is in abundant usage to mean something that is forced into a place or application where it just doesn't fit or belong.

Examples from Wordnik.com:

So rather than force-fit plans crafted for one part of the world onto another, Cisco created an entirely new geographic region devoted solely to emerging countries. Inder Sidhu: Decisions without Tradeoffs


What I ironically find more interesting is taking what few alternate “explanations” anti-evolution activists have offered - note how vague they are becoming in terms of “what happened when” - and trying to force-fit the evidence to see if any of those mutually contradictory alternate “explanations” has any merit. Accretionary lapilli - The Panda's Thumb


McCain is too complex a character to force-fit into the caricatures that ideologues at both extremes are always peddling as the “truth.” As Democrats Fight, McCain Seeks the Middle - The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com


Examples abound. In fact, one hears this usage all the time. I'd say it's the perfect for you.



adjective: obviously planned or forced; strained, artificial, or lacking in spontaneity; unnatural

verb (used with object), con·trived, con·triv·ing. to plan with ingenuity; devise; invent. Ex. The author contrived a clever plot. to bring about or effect by a plan, scheme, or the like; manage. Ex. He contrived to gain their votes. to plot (evil, treachery, etc.).

(used without object), con·trived, con·triv·ing. to form designs; plan. to plot.

verb (tr) to manage (something or to do something), esp by means of a trick; engineer. Ex. He contrived to make them meet. (tr) to think up or adapt ingeniously or elaborately. Ex. He contrived a new mast for the boat. to plot or scheme (treachery, evil, etc)

Contrive - to make something happen, especially by using clever or dishonest methods. Ex. We contrived to have an enjoyable holiday inspite of the rain.

Maybe also, Engineered, Molded, Forged Sources Google, dictionary.com, thesaurus.com


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