"The Patriot Act is anything but patriotic, it's a _____________."

Not the greatest example depending on your political view (sorry AuthRight), but I'm going off of the interpretation that the legislation named the USA PATRIOT Act purports itself to be something you would of course support if you were a patriotic person. Despite this, many believe the PATRIOT Act to be something entirely the opposite of patriotic.

So the term should describe something intentionally deceptive (perhaps to gain psychological influence). Homonym doesn't convey this intent. Malaprop describes a mistaken intent to a similar sounding word, but not a deceptive one. Contradiction in terms or Oxymoron describe a phrase that self-contradicts, but only one between the words it uses, not its external interpretation.

Single-word, phrases, and expressions all acceptable.


4 Answers 4


If you don't accept my earlier answer, you might use doubletalk, doublespeak, or doublethink.

evasive, ambiguous language that is intended to deceive or confuse.
First recorded in 1950–55; double + speak, by analogy with doublethink

the acceptance of two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time.
double + think1; coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984 (1949)


The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. — Part II, Chapter IX

  • Yes, that’s it. What Orwell describes.
    – Xanne
    Mar 7, 2021 at 23:17
  • There it is, doublespeak. Thank you! I agree that with what T. loca said - Pete and Anton's answers could also be used as "duplicitous misnomer", but I think doublespeak is closer to what I was looking for.
    – halph
    Mar 8, 2021 at 7:31

It might be described as a duplicity or as chicanery.

Duplicity = deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter


Chicanery = clever, dishonest talk or behaviour that is used to deceive people


Both terms are relevant to your example. The use of the word patriot is a duplicity that relies on the word’s having two meanings to its two different audiences. The use of the term is a political chicanery designed to deceive one of the audiences.



A misnomer is a name that is incorrectly or unsuitably applied.1 Misnomers often arise because something was named long before its correct nature was known, or because an earlier form of something has been replaced by something to which the name no longer applies.

  • 1
    This is not an answer to the question asked.
    – Xanne
    Mar 7, 2021 at 6:33
  • In what way? It seems to fit correctly. "The Patriot Act is a misnomer, because it isn't really very patriotic." Some people might disagree with the statement factually, but I think the term is used correctly, and in the way the OP wants.
    – Pete
    Mar 7, 2021 at 7:20
  • ' ... the term should describe something intentionally deceptive'. Misnomers are often the result of poor analysis / judgement. Mar 7, 2021 at 15:55
  • The OP is willing to accept expressions/phrases, so: 'Duplicitous misnomer', 'deliberate misrepresentation' or 'intentional misdirection'.
    – T. Ioca
    Mar 7, 2021 at 17:30

It is simply a lie but three words won't do.

It is a Bald-Faced Lie

The leverage they get out of misnaming such legislation is profound. Anyone against it, even in the finer points can be shouted down and unpatriotic. It is an evil tool.

From Merriam Webster there are examples; By the mid-20th century, it seems (though we can only speculate) that "barefaced lie" didn't sound awful enough, and the term bald-faced (less commonly, baldfaced) began to describe the lies and liars:

The fancy leaflet … says that this insurance is "comprehensive" and "pays liberal benefits." That is a bald-faced lie, experts say. The actual policy is "extremely restricted" and "extensively limited."
— J. C. Furnas, Good Housekeeping, June 1948

Mr. Koch says everybody out in the country drives a pickin' up truck and wears Sears suits. Well, sir, that's a bald-faced lie. Don't nobody around here wear a suit. Don't need to. They don't care what you wear over to the Moose Club, long as you ain't barefoot.
— William Robert "Billy Bob" Jones, Playboy, July 1982

The bald-faced lie doesn't toy with my perceptions—it argues with them. It doesn't try to refashion reality, it tries to refute it.
— Stephanie Ericsson, Utne Reader, November/December 1992

Instead of telling a bald-faced lie, why not whip up a truth sandwich, which is an honest, meaty comment between two slices of lie bread?
— Barbara Sher, Real Simple, November 2002

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