Let's imagine a hypothetical business: Mistake Corp. Mistake Corp makes a lot of mistakes, and as it turns out, the reason they make these mistakes is typically the same. 90% of the time Mistake Corp makes a mistake, it's because of misinformation. I suppose misinformation is the opposite of a linchpin for Mistake Corp.

I'd like to be able to use the word like so: "Misinformation is the [anti-linchpin] of Mistake Corp"

What non-ambiguous word, other than "anti-linchpin", can I use to describe something that is a frequent cause for mistakes to those who aren't as English-savvy?

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    – tchrist
    Jan 29, 2017 at 14:42

12 Answers 12


I'd say that misinformation is the pitfall for Mistake Corp.

A hidden or unsuspected danger or difficulty:
‘There are obvious pitfalls of such behavior, if it ever developed into a habit.’

They indeed seem to fall in time and again; check the box for unsuspected...


  • 1
    I agree this is a good word but I'm not sure about the phrasing. Usually when you say "X is a pitfall of Y", Y refers to an activity which has that pitfall. You wouldn't normally place the person/group making the mistake in the Y position. Jan 23, 2017 at 17:03
  • Like Ben, I'm not sure about the phrasing -- I'd personally choose "Misinformation is a pitfall for Mistake Corp." But this is definitely a word that can be universally understood, and I like that it specifically implies shortcomings rather than a generic weakness.
    – Drew
    Jan 25, 2017 at 1:51
  • 2
    @Ben Aaronson, Drew, made the edit :-)
    – Bookeater
    Jan 25, 2017 at 17:50

I would suggest bane. The second definition from Merriam-Webster:

  1. a source of harm or ruin

In context, you can say "Misinformation is the bane of Mistake Corp." The word is often used in play with boon, an antonym. For example, "The bane and boon of business."

You might also consider curse. The fifth definition in Merriam-Webster:

  1. a cause of great harm or misfortune

In context: "Misinformation is a constant curse for Mistake Corp."

  • bane sounds better. Jan 23, 2017 at 15:01
  • +1 for bane. Curse, not so much.
    – verbose
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:23

Perhaps bugbear would fit the context. According to the Free Dictionary, one of its meanings is:

A difficult or persistent problem: "One of the major bugbears of traditional AI is the difficulty of programming computers to recognize that different but similar objects are instances of the same type of thing" (Jack Copeland).

The same page also quotes from the Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary:

a persistent problem or source of annoyance.

In your case, misinformation would be the bugbear of Mistakes Corp. The word does carry the sense of fear and dread, so the assumption would be that there is anxiety around misinformation, as it is a recognized source of persistent problems.

  • If I could squander my +1's for the next 100 questions I read, I would +1 them here. I typed "Ctrl F bugbear" after reading the question. If you need an actor for threw a spanner in the works it's bugbear.
    – stevesliva
    Jan 23, 2017 at 18:27

How about stumbling block?

In Merriam Webster's first definition, it is:

an obstacle to progress

which a cause of continually repeated mistakes decidedly is.

  • This and bugbear are far more accurate answers than the current top answers (bane, pitfall, undoing).
    – person27
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:18

Note: this is not a figurative term like 'linchpin' . There are some other good choices in the comments and answers. Still, this is a possibility.


 "Misinformation is the [undoing] of Mistake Corp"

However, 'undoing' is a strong term and could imply Mistake Corp might be going out of business. (a undoing a linchpin could be fatal too though)

Instead, if you inserted 'frequent'

 "Misinformation is the [ *frequent undoing* ] of Mistake Corp"

It would be clear that while serious it logically couldn't be quite as severe if repeatable.

I think it could be easily understood by people relatively new to the language.

undoing [uhn-doo-ing]



1. the reversing of what has been done; annulling.

2. a bringing to destruction, ruin, or disaster.

3. a cause of destruction or ruin.

4. the act of unfastening or loosing.

  • 'Frequent undoing' sounds very contrived. Undoing is rarely used in cases where disaster isn't meant to be implied.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 23, 2017 at 6:06
  • "Misinformation has frequently been the undoing of Mistake Corp", you need the extra words in there to fix the rhythm.
    – Separatrix
    Jan 23, 2017 at 14:01
  • Yeah, I'm not wholeheartedly into my own answer for the reasons both of you cite...
    – Tom22
    Jan 23, 2017 at 17:48
  • It brings to mind a Victorian heroine with her hand to her forehead, saying, "Alas! That villain has deceived me and stolen my honour! I am undone!" 🙂
    – verbose
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:28

blind spot

Misinformation is the blind spot of Mistake Corp.

2 : an area in which one fails to exercise judgment or discrimination

"Blind Spot." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.


When I was working as a Quality Manager and Analyst, we would run Histogram/Pareto analysis to identify "Critical Defects". This is a type of analysis commonly used in Lean / Six Sigma, which is a management technique used to improve quality in processes by identifying and removing errors. It is commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule: 80% of total errors are caused by only 20% of the metrics.

A Root-cause is essentially some kind of factor that is the major reason for the failure of a process. Removal of the root cause should result in success of the process.

I suppose you could say that:

"Information collection is the most important critical defect in processes at Mistake Corp."

"Misinformation is the root cause for this critical defect at Mistake Corp."

or words to that effect.


A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but nemesis or bête noire might also work in some contexts.

  • 2
    Sounds quite good to me, but a definition (and link/reference to where you got it from) for each suggestion would make this into a good answer worthy of an upvote.
    – AndyT
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:24
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    I immediately thought of bête noire, but the MW definition had a more specific meaning than I thought I remembered, particularly: "a person or thing strongly detested or avoided". I still like it as an answer; I was just surprised to see such a narrow definition.
    – Spratty
    Jan 23, 2017 at 15:33
  • @Spratty: The OED defines bête noire a little more broadly: "A person or thing that is the bane of a person or his life; an insufferable person or thing; an object of aversion." Jan 23, 2017 at 17:18


Misinformation is the hindrance of Mistake Corp.

From Merriam-Webster:

2 : a person or thing that interferes with or slows the progress of someone or something : impediment


If the cause for mistakes is a person, I would suggest liability:

3 : one that acts as a disadvantage : drawback


You may simply call it a source of error. Otherwise I would agree with @Fredsbend that it is that company's bane.


Cognitive dissonance

(Psychology) An uncomfortable mental state resulting from conflicting cognitions; usually resolved by changing some of the cognitions

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