LawProse Lesson #222: What is a “misnomer”?

LawProse Lesson #222: What is a “misnomer”?

What is a misnomer? In law, a misnomer is the use of a wrong or inappropriate name—usually of a person or place—in a legal document. In nonlegal contexts, misnomer usually refers to a misdescription of a thing or concept.      You’ll occasionally find this term misused to mean “a popular misconception” {It’s time to banish the myths and misnomers [read misunderstandings or misconceptions] surrounding the law-school application process.}. Oddly enough, this mistake is itself a kind of misnomer based on a misconception.      Typically, when the term is used correctly it will accompany a misleading word or title, often in quotation marks—e.g.: “Old countries are sometimes world-weary and cynical, urging a ‘realism’ that is sometimes a misnomer for the moral corruption they know so very well.” Richard Cohen, “Nobel Winners and Losers,” Wash. Post, 15 Oct. 2002, at A19. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 582 (3d ed. 2011). Garner’s Modern American Usage 542 (3d ed. 2009). Black’s Law Dictionary 1151 (10th ed. 2014).

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