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a peeve

I have seen the use of the term "factoid" to mean "somewhat interesting fact", whereas the term originally meant "unsubstantiated information" or "Inaccurate information", something that is not a fact.

The American Heritage Dictionary says this about "factoidal":

factoidal adj.
Usage Note: The -oid suffix normally imparts the meaning resembling, having the appearance of to the words it attaches to. Thus the anthropoid apes are the apes that are most like humans (from Greek anthrpos, human being). In some words -oid has a slightly extended meaninghaving characteristics of, but not the same as, as in humanoid, a being that has human characteristics but is not really human. Similarly, factoid originally referred to a piece of information that appears to be reliable or accurate, as from being repeated so often that people assume it is true. The word still has this meaning in standard usage. Seventy-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence It would be easy to condemn the book as a concession to the television age, as a McLuhanish melange of pictures and factoids which give the illusion of learning without the substance. Factoid has since developed a second meaning, that of a brief, somewhat interesting fact, that might better have been called a factette. The Panelists have less enthusiasm for this usage, however, perhaps because they believe it to be confusing. Only 43 percent of the panel accepts it in Each issue of the magazine begins with a list of factoids, like how many pounds of hamburger were consumed in Texas last month. Many Panelists prefer terms such as statistics, trivia, useless facts, and just plain facts in this sentence.

I agree with the majority of the panel. I find this usage misleading.


Judith Lautner
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