This weekend, at a family function, my cousin who happens to be a lawyer committed a pet-peeve of mine -- misuse of words -- which I did not correct out of the fear of appearing petty. Gathered around the kitchen table, she was telling a story about some true event, and concluded, "Well, that's my little factoid for the evening."

"Factoid" has recently been used a lot in my presence as a substitution for "fact", when its definintion is the exact opposite meaning. Via Wiki:
    A factoid is a spurious — unverified, incorrect, or fabricated — statement formed and asserted as a fact, but with no veracity. The word appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as "something which becomes accepted as fact, although it may not be true."

    Factoid was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer described a factoid as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper", and created the word by combining the word fact and the ending -oid to mean "like a fact". The Washington Times described Mailer's new word as referring to "something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact".

    Factoids may give rise to, or arise from, common misconceptions and urban legends.
When I say pet-peeve, I mean that I get annoyed when even I occasionally misuse a phrase. (The difference between Tuscan and Tucsan comes to mind!) What I find amusing about this such misuse is that by using the word as its opposite, people are creating a factoid out of factoid. So, instead when this usage is enacted again, I will laugh. Laugh and point.

No comments: