Terminology question: "so-called"

nomadreid

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Not sure if this is the proper rubric under which to put the question, so if a monitor wishes to move it or even remove it, I will understand.
I am proof-reading a mathematics manuscript, and the author (non-native speaker of English) keeps using the word "so-called" in places where I might put "termed" or something similar, that is, by the first introduction of the term in the book, as although "so-called" would have been appropriate (neutral) in, say , 1876, today it is usually deprecating or negative. So, for example, when she writes "can be solved in so-called Biggs's groups" , I would just let the italics (or quotation marks) do the work that used to be done by "so-called" when "so-called" was neutral. But I would like to hear other suggestions, the more the merrier, for alternative words or expressions to a neutral meaning of "so-called". Thanks.
 
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So called has many negative connotations and would undoubtly make it difficult to read:

https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/so-called

You might need to return to the original manuscript and retranslate from the word the author used to see what his real intent was.

For example, you might replace a phrase like "the so called constant pi is used to compute the circumference of the circle" with a gentler
expression of "the formal constant pi..." or "the well known constant pi" or "the traditional constant pi" or ...getting worse and worse...
 
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I won't venture an alternative, since (1) that's a whole new bag of worms because (2) I don't think the phrase should be replaced by an alternative, I think it should just be deleted.

In any case it should be at least replaced, not left as is.
 

DrClaude

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The expression so-called appears to be here a so-called "crutch" :wink:. I agree with @phinds that in most cases it can be simply removed.
 

nomadreid

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Thanks for the input and suggestions, jedishrfu, phinds and Dr. Claude.

You might need to return to the original manuscript and retranslate from the word the author used to see what his real intent was.
It appears that the author did not write the book in her native language, but wrote it directly in English with a bit too much confidence in her English skills. That is, her English is understandable, but.... This is what is puzzling about this mistake: most of her mistakes are clearly from her thinking in the grammar of her native language (Russian), but the direct translation of "so-called" into Russian is just as negative in Russian as it is in English. I am guessing she found some dictionary which lists the neutral meaning as the primary one : I took a brief survey of on-line dictionaries, and some list the neutral one as the primary meaning, and the negative one as secondary meaning, whereas other dictionaries list only the negative meaning.

So called has many negative connotations and would undoubtly make it difficult to read:
https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/so-called
I was playing with using the synonym "self-styled", but I don't think "The self-styled Biggs group" would work. On the other hand, it might work for a Gödelian sentence....o0)


or "the well known constant pi"
In some cases that might work, but the author is putting this word in under the assumption that the term is new to the reader. For example, "the so-called Biggs group" might be replaced with "with a group which is termed the Biggs group", except that is long and awkward.

I think it should just be deleted.
in most cases it can be simply removed.
That is mostly what I have been doing, but I am also open to other alternatives if I find good ones.
 
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You could just drop it or add a placeholder like XXXXXX and then read the text to see if dropping the word helps of hurts the reading. The XXXXXX makes it easy to spot where you need to fix it or simply drop it.

Sometimes, folks talk a certain way and it reflects in their writing. I had a math teacher who would constantly inject "you know", "you see" into everything she said. We counted 80 uses of "you know" and 20 of "you see" in one lecture period of about 45 minutes.
 
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You could just drop it or add a placeholder like XXXXXX and then read the text to see if dropping the word helps of hurts the reading. The XXXXXX makes it easy to spot where you need to fix it or simply drop it.
Clever idea.
 

Klystron

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[snip] I am proof-reading a mathematics manuscript, and the author (non-native speaker of English) keeps using the word "so-called" in places where I might put "termed" or something similar, that is, by the first introduction of the term in the book, as although "so-called" would have been appropriate (neutral) ... let the italics (or quotation marks) do the work that used to be done by "so-called" ... But I would like to hear other suggestions, the more the merrier, for alternative words or expressions to a neutral meaning of "so-called". Thanks.
Concur with removing the phrase though quotation marks also help. A popular author born early in 20th C replaced 'so-called' with 'soi-disant' from a time when French phrases were liberally sprinkled in English literature. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/soi-disant

The French definition of soi-disant implies "as I would say"; potentially less offensive than 'so-called' implying "how the [uneducated, unwashed, unenlightened ?] masses say". Pre-revolution Russian literature made liberal use of French idiom, a reflection of court life, cosmopolitan education and aristocratic fashion, now often replaced by American idiom among the modern Russian authors I enjoy [in English translation. The untranslated phrases are usually printed in italic.]
 
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And that got further converted to soi-lent and a sci-fi classic was born. :-)
 

LURCH

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In nearly 100% of cases, the term ‘so-called’ can be replaced with, ‘what’s known as’ or ‘something called’. Keeps the sentence as close as possible to the author’s original, and the correct choice between singular and plural is the only requirement for getting the so-called grammar good.
 

Klystron

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And that got further converted to soi-lent and a sci-fi classic was born. :-)
If this was a joke thread, I would give you a 'like'. [Harry Harrison used soy, refuting a common idea that if only we converted from meat to plant based diets, hunger would be assuaged; ignoring population pressure. Lent comes from a Catholic fasting period before Easter.] I edited 'SF author' since Heinlein also used the term in other contexts. :cool:

So as not to confuse French speakers, soi does not rhyme with soy any more than the word moi. I was taught "swah and mwah" but my French pronunciation is execrable; my spoken Spanish and English merely laughable.
 

DrClaude

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The French definition of soi-disant implies "as I would say"; potentially less offensive than 'so-called' implying "how the [uneducated, unwashed, unenlightened ?] masses say".
Soi-disant in French is even more pejorative than so-called in English.
 

DrClaude

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I was playing with using the synonym "self-styled", but I don't think "The self-styled Biggs group" would work. On the other hand, it might work for a Gödelian sentence....o0)
I don't think that the group named itself, so self-styled doesn't work.

That is mostly what I have been doing, but I am also open to other alternatives if I find good ones.
Referred to, known as, called, termed...
 

Klystron

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Soi-disant in French is even more pejorative than so-called in English.
One learns something new every day on this forum. The OP did ask for any alternates.

I imagine the old Navy engineer author figured "Most Americans do not know French idiom. Remove the bite from 'so-called' with 'soi-disant' and let smart readers figure it out.". This writer also included misspelled and mistranslated German in his tales as it sounded like a pre-WWII physicist. Though lauded for including physics and math (rocketry) in his stories, his other science knowledge seemed as bad as my French.
 

nomadreid

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e-revolution Russian literature made liberal use of French idiom, a reflection of court life, cosmopolitan education and aristocratic fashion, now often replaced by American idiom among the modern Russian authors I enjoy [in English translation.
You are perhaps jumping from Turgenev and Tolstoi to Peleven and Lyukyanenko, but in between the Russian term for "so-called" also was used, and is even worse than "so-called". (так называемый) This is what puzzles me so much: the author in question is Russian, so what strange turn of psychology or translation is she so enamored of the English "so-called"? As Dr. Claude pointed out, it wouldn't be from the French phrase in the classical Russian literature.

By the way, I forgot to thank the anonymous mentor who kindly switched this post to the more appropriate rubric.
 

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