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Zeedee  (Level: 222.1 - Posts: 1088)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 3:47 AM


"Factoid" is one of those words that seems to be changing into its own opposite.

Originally, the word meant something that was believed to be true because it had appeared in print but which might not have any basis in truth. ("It must be true; I read it in the Enquirer.") Technically, this is still the accepted "standard" usage of the word.

But now, ironically, because of the way the media uses the word, it is often used to mean "a piece of factual trivia."
So, it's confusing. If someone makes the comment "What an interesting factoid" are they saying your statement is true or false?

See an interesting explanation of the usage problem in the American Heritage Dictionary:

Papajensai  (Level: 189.7 - Posts: 1025)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 4:10 AM

I recently (about six hours ago) used "factoid" while commenting favorably to Sandracam about her Dutch Treat WP (and perhaps prompting your post). I've never knowingly encountered the "original" meaning of the word, and always thought of it as meaning a nice interesting little ball of trivia, but a truthful one. I must have been mistaken, given your reference, and I can see the logic. I love neologism, but what I love about it is communicating in an interesting but accurate way, and this is just the opposite. This is somehow important to me, and so I thank you sincerely for pointing this out.

So, Sandy, I really enjoyed all the factual tidbits of trivia you offered up in your WP, which I never doubted were true for a moment.

Sandracam  (Level: 149.3 - Posts: 4190)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 6:32 AM

Ron, glad you liked my "microfacts".

Mplaw51  (Level: 176.9 - Posts: 1582)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 7:28 AM

I'm a word "monger" so this is really interesting to me. The additional note at the end of the definition really brings it to light saying that "oid" means having a resemblance of, or something like that.
I think we've all been guilty of misusing this word. Thanks for the facts on factoid!

Zeedee  (Level: 222.1 - Posts: 1088)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 10:55 AM

Wikipedia says that Norman Mailer coined the word in his biography of Marilyn Monroe.
"Mailer described a factoid as ' facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper.' "

It's interesting that factoids often originate in tabloids.

Nickdanger  (Level: 150.1 - Posts: 62)
Thu, 7th Aug '08 5:59 PM

A similar thing is happening to another favorite word/pet peeve of mine: peruse, of course, originally meant to "read carefully." One of its alternate definitions is now "to skim" as a result of popular usage.


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