The War Against Factoids

I was listening to a radio show this morning and the host said something along the lines of: “Did you know Jon Bon Jovi’s first band was named “Raze”? I thought I’d share that interesting factoid with you.”

I’ve heard many people, both on TV/radio and in person, using the word in that context to mean a novel or insignificant fact, much like trivia. And every time they do, it drives me nuts, because they’re using it wrong.

The original definition of the word “factoid” is

Dictionary

Still the most misunderstood book in the world.

…something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact,  devised especially to gain publicity and accepted because of constant repetition.

Now, I’m not normally a grammar nazi. If you want to misuse a word, fine. But what irks me is that some people use this as a way of sounding smart when they’re actually exposing their own ignorance (and it’s not the only word they get wrong, either).

What they’re actually doing is stating a fact and then unwittingly defining it as a falsehood by using the word factoid. Even Wikipedia has taken note of the misuse, and apparently it’s been used so often that the other, wrong definition has become common usage! So the factoid is, itself, a factoid. Very paradoxical (yes, I just did that to sound smart).

Anyway. Old man rant done. I’m putting my cane away and you kids can go ahead and play on the lawn again.

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3 comments on “The War Against Factoids

  1. daeruin says:

    This kind of stuff is fun. It’s just further evidence of how language evolves. Words gain new meaning, and the old meaning is eventually lost. There’s not much point in fighting against it. Wikipedia isn’t the only one recognizing the change in “factoid.” Merriam Webster lists “a brief, interesting fact” as the second definition. The usage has become common enough to be listed in the dictionary. The fight is already over.

  2. Patrick says:

    Yeah, it is. Doesn’t stop curmudgeons like me from complaining about it every step of the way though, haha.

    “When I was your age, spam actually meant FOOD!”

  3. SErraPH says:

    Your truly correct! This is quintessentially were people trying to sound intelligent goes wrong, its totally irregardless of proper grammar…

    Have at it, my Grammar Nazi friend. Enjoy.

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