invalid and invented factoids

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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Jan 05, 2002 11:34 am

Factoid: unverified, untrue, or invented fact--www.word-detective.com
...Bush has “lost” more than a million jobs....This is a factoid of questionable validity--Colorado Springs Gazette

Neither the definition nor the usage above ring my bell, though Ken will argue that the latter might be valid since a secondary meaning of "factoid" is simply brief, without the necessary implication of spuriosity; but I would demur since it usu suggests a news item whereas the Gazette factoid doesn't quite qualify as a news report but merely the spurious or arguable interpretation of one

Anyhow looking for a term that describes both; "oxymoronic" doesn't quite fit(?), and the statement about Bush is indeed a factoid; but all factoids are of questionable validity; so this is more of a reduncancy; but that term doesn'tx fit the OneLook def
Submitted by dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 11:49 am

Dale, the Colorado Springs Gazette is correct in the way it uses 'factoid', even though its apparent assertion is questionable.

According to Evan Morris, the word was born in 1973:

http://www.word-detective.com/101800.html#factoid

"Dear Word Detective: Help! I thought I knew perfectly well what "factoid" means: a trivial or insignificant fact. But now I find that a lot of dictionaries consider that it means an unverified, untrue, or invented fact! I think all of this would be news to a lot of people. For example, various TV shows and newsmagazines often promote "factoids" about the subject of their program. I'm sure they have no idea that one meaning of "factoid" is a statement that isn't true. -- Melanie Nickel, via the internet.
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Blame it on CNN -- they started the whole ruckus by taking a perfectly good word and twisting it.

"Factoid" is one of those rare words that were undeniably invented by an identifiable individual, in this case Norman Mailer, in his book "Marilyn," published in 1973. The Oxford Dictionary of New Words defines "factoid" thus: "A spurious or questionable fact; especially something that is supposed to be true because it has been reported (and often repeated) in the media, but is actually based on speculation or even fabrication." Norman Mailer himself defined "factoids" as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority."

Mailer invented the word by combining "fact" with "oid," a scientific suffix meaning "resembling or having the form of, but not identical to." Needless to say, "factoids" in Mailer's sense are the antithesis of serious reporting, and to accuse a journalist of trafficking in "factoids" was a grave insult, at least until CNN came along.

Unfortunately, the repetition of "factoid" in this "trivial fact" sense has taken its toll, and almost no one remembers the original meaning. Hence the secondary "trivia" definition found in most current dictionaries almost certainly will, at some point in the near future, become the primary one.

Mailer's original negative definition of "factoid" was a valuable contribution to the language on a par with George Orwell's "Newspeak," and, in this age of spin doctors, "factoid" still fills a conspicuous need. Perhaps we should petition CNN to give us our word back."
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 12:03 pm

Dale, I thought we almost beat this one to death in ‘factoid’ (posting # 2978). Also, rather than quoting one sentence from Word Detective, which BTW was the questioner’s misinterpretation and not the Word Detective’s words, you might want to indicate what Word Detective’s actual response was:

“Unfortunately, the repetition of "factoid" in this "trivial fact" sense has taken its toll, and ALMOST NO ONE REMEMBERS THE ORIGINAL MEANING. Hence the secondary "trivia" definition found in most current dictionaries almost certainly will, at some point in the near future, become the primary one.”

It is a fact ‘sad but true’ and Morris laments this in his next sentence, “Mailer's original negative definition of "factoid" was a valuable contribution to the language on a par with George Orwell's "Newspeak," and, in this age of spin doctors, "factoid" still fills a conspicuous need [[implication: would fill but goes unfulfilled]]. Perhaps we should petition CNN to give us our word back.” Unfortunately this ain’t goin’ to happen. So WIZes of the world, I’m sorry but, like it or not, USAGE has once again trumped a ‘proper’ definition (i.e. the original and Mailer’s when he invented the word).

Well, it has been several years since Evan Morris, the Word Detective, wrote the above and I believe “that point in the near future” has now been reached and that by force of widespread usage (e.g. television, newspapers, magazines, . . .) almost no one regards ‘a factoid’ as anything other than “an interesting piece of trivia” but a fact nonetheless! The truth is, that it is be extremely awkward to have a word meaning something and also its opposite (or nearly so) at the same time (a Janus word), especially when in a typical sentence it would not be at all clear which was meant. And when our self-correcting English language, realized the problem with having this duel meaning, it acted accordingly and has succeeded, for all practical purposes in obliterating the old one. And for the real answer right now, ask the masses and not the dictionaries – the dictionaries are still catching up (a 1999 survey of American Heritage Dictionary panelists revealed ‘less enthusiasm’ (43 % found ‘factoid’ acceptable but preferred the use of such words as trivia or facts – but that was 5 years ago, and if they reconvened the panel today I’m sure they would be forced to reevaluate their position).

The ‘Colorado Springs Gazette’ is clearly using the word in its new sense and is saying that the so-called ‘more than a million jobs’ may not be a ‘fact’ at all (i.e. “is of questionable validity). It seems to me, that it makes not sense that they would be using the old sense since, logically, if they were invoking the old sense, “A spurious or questionable fact; especially something that is supposed to be true because it has been reported (and often repeated) in the media, but is actually based on speculation or even fabrication. (OED),” they would be saying that “a questionable fact is of questionable validity,” which really wouldn’t be a sentence worth saying, much less writing!

Not exactly sure what you mean by you ‘describes both.’ As far as ‘oxymoronic’ goes, that implies a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, such as in ‘deafening silence,’ ‘cruel kindness,’ and more recently ‘CIA intelligence.’ So, according to the old meaning at least, a ‘factual factoid’ would be oxymoronic. If you mean a word describing ‘factoid,’ considering it to have the two bona fide meanings (one that it isn’t a fact and the second that it is, although a trivial one), then that would describe a Janus word (appears in American Heritage Dictionary) and I guess we would have to coin the adjective ‘Janustic.’

Some other possibilities referring to Janus words, which you wont find in any standard dictionaries but which have been suggested by various word mavens are: ‘self-contradictory,’ ‘antonymous,’ ‘enantidromic,’ ‘auto-antonyms’ (thus, ‘auto-antonymous’),’ ‘self-antonyms’ (thus ‘self-antonymous’), ‘antagonyms,’ (thus, ‘antagonymous’), and ‘contronyms’ (thus, ‘contronymous’).
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Ken – October 18, 2004
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 12:17 pm

Erik, You beat me to it. But great minds think alike! (<:)

Ken – October 18, 2004

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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 12:32 pm

Great minds also sometimes make spelling errors that their spell checkers (or administrative assistant and constant companions – she is in deep doo-doo, but I’m sure she will make amends!) don’t catch. In my 4th paragraph, that should be ‘dual meaning’ and not ‘duel meaning.’
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Ken G – October 18, 2004

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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 12:46 pm

Ken, I liked "duel" as it implies conflicting meanings, thus disappointed it was only a typo
I wasn't seeking a discussion of "factoid" so much as a word to describe the two definitions; both of which have a subtle quality somewhere between a redundancy and an oxymoron

Even Oxford's def seems to fall in this category: "A spurious or questionable fact" How can a fact be either spurious or questionable?
Probably the word I'm looking for doesn't exist but again thanks guys
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 1:01 pm

.. given that Mialer's original definition of the word clearly referred to questionable journalistic practices, it does not surprise me that the same lobby, journalists, have worked hard to redefine the word .. it is a shame as factoidal jounalism abounds and in the hands of spin doctors has been lifted to an artform ..
WoZ of Aus. 19/10/04
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Post by Archived Reply » Sat Jan 05, 2002 1:15 pm

Or 'fart form', as one could also term it.

In my view, the political spin doctors are even more pernicious than the biased scum journalists, news broadcasters and commentators with which they overlap. They have the advantage of being in greater control of their raw material, and exploit it to the full.
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:12 am

Thanks to all you guys discussing "factoid" above, but what I need is a term to describe a self-contradictory or oxymoronic sentence or def. The two defs using "factoid" were merely examples.
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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invalid and invented factoids

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:16 am

Manifesto

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