This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday Rest: Word Not To Use Today: factoid.

Here's an ugly little word.

Factoid was first used by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. He used the word to mean a piece of unreliable information which people believe to be true, either because it's repeated or simply because it's appeared in print.

Mailer said factoids were: "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".

How do you spot a factoid? Well, sentences beginning with the word apparently often lead to them.

Apparently, the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object you can see from space.

Apparently, not eating breakfast stops your brain working properly. (Tell that to Sherlock Holmes.)

[There are] One million UK children not knowing where their next meal is coming from. (That's from Netmums in the media, by the way.)

Oh dear. No apparently with that one. Still, if you'll believe that... 

Now, all that's bad, but I'm afraid it gets worse. The word factoid has also come to mean something true but largely useless, like that the word strewth! is a shortened form of His (ie God's) truth.

This means that no one has a clue what anyone means when they use the word factoid and so, as the word is ugly as well as incomprehensible, there seems to be no reason for anyone using it ever again.

Word Not To Use Today: factoid. This word is made up of the word fact, which comes from the Latin factum meaning something done, and oid, which means likeness, and comes from the Greek eidos, which means form.

1 comment:

  1. Not a word I've ever used, I'm glad to say. I associate it with Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2. He has a section devoted to them! Whatever they are....