A factoid is a spurious — unverified, incorrect, or fabricated — statement formed and asserted as a fact, but with no . The word appears in the
Oxford English Dictionaryas "something which becomes accepted as fact, although it may not be true" [cite book | editor = Simpson JA & Weiner ESC | title=The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition| publisher=Clarendon Press| year=1991 | id=ISBN 0-19-861258-3]
"Factoid" was coined by
Norman Mailerin his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer described a factoid as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper" [cite book | last = Mailer | first = Norman | title=Marilyn: A Biography | publisher=Grosset & Dunlap| year=1973 | id=ISBN 0-448-01029-1] , and created the word by combining the word " fact" and the ending " -oid" to mean "like a fact". The Washington Timesdescribed Mailer's new word as referring to "something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact". [ [http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/jan/23/20070123-121624-9376r/ Wesley Pruden, Editorial in "Washington Times"] ]
Factoids may give rise to, or arise from,
common misconceptionsand urban legends.
*Many residents of the Australian city of Mount Isa believe that their city, in terms of its area, is the world's largest or second largest. In reality Mount Isa is the second largest city in Australia, and there are several cities around the world with larger incorporated areas. Their own local council web site incorrectly suggests it is the second largest city on earth. [ [http://www.mountisa.qld.gov.au/welcome/The_City_Today/the_city_today.html Mount Isa City Council page suggesting their city is the second largest city in the world] ]
*The media in
Canadahave often reported that the city of Torontowas named by UNESCOas the most multicultural city in the world. Although there have been some reports suggesting that Toronto may be "one of" the world's most diverse cities (see Demographics of Toronto), the United Nations agency has never designated any city as being "the most" multicultural or diverse. [cite web| url = http://ceris.metropolis.net/PolicyMatter/2004/PolicyMatters11.pdf| title = The Anatomy of an Urban
| author = Michael J. Doucet| publisher = CERIS - Metropolis Toronto Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement| month = October | year = 2004| accessdate = 2007-05-23|format=PDF] Nonetheless, the belief in this status persisted for years, even finding its way onto UNESCO's own web site, [ [http://www.unesco.org/most/usa9.htm UNESCO Best Practices for Human Settlements: Metro Toronto's Changing Communities] ] into the pages of the "New York Times" [Clyde H. Farnsworth, "Toronto Journal: To Battle Bigots, Help from South of the Border," New York Times, Friday,
12 February 1993, 4.] and " The Economist", ["City of diversity", Economist City Guide: Toronto, [http://www.economist.com/cities/findStory.cfm?city_id=TO&folder=Facts-History] (retrieved May 24, 2007)] and into international media reports in respect of Toronto's two Olympic bids.
Great Wall of Chinais often thought as being the only man-made object visible from the moon. [See Great Wall of China's visibility] In reality no man-made object can be seen with a naked eye from the moon unless you count such things as the changing of Holland's coast or the partial drying out of the Aral Sea.
*It is often thought that chameleons change colour to match their surroundings as camouflage. They are mostly well camouflaged and they can change colour, but they do not change colour to match their surroundings. The colour changes as its physical status changes and as a form of communication. Octopuses seem to change colour as a form of camouflage (but also as a way of communicating). [cite web | url=http://science.howstuffworks.com/animal-camouflage2.htm | title=How Animal Camouflage Works | publisher=How Stuff Works | first=Tom | last=Harris | accessdate=2006-11-13]
*Dogs and cats are often thought to be completely colour-blind and see the world in scales of grey. That is wrong. They do have colour vision, dichromate, but not nearly as good as that of humans, trichromate i.e. red, green and blue light.Fact|date=April 2008
The word "factoid" is now sometimes also used to mean a small piece of "true" but valueless or insignificant information, in contrast to the original definition. This has been popularized by the
CNN Headline NewsTV channel, which, during the 1980s and 1990s, used to frequently include such a fact under the heading "factoid" during newscasts. In the United Kingdom, BBC Radio 2presenter Steve Wright uses factoids extensively on his show. [cite book | author = Wright, Steve | title=Steve Wright's Book of Factoids| publisher=HarperCollins Entertainment| year=2005 | id=ISBN 0-00-720660-7]
As a result of confusion over the meaning of factoid, some English-language style and usage guides recommend against its use. [cite book | author = Brians, Paul | title=Common Errors in English Usage| publisher=William James & Company| year=2003 | id=ISBN 1-887902-89-9 [http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/factoid.html] ] Language expert William Safire in his "On Language" column advocated the use of the word "factlet" to express a "little bit of arcana" [William Safire, "On Language; Only the Factoids," New York Times, Sunday,
5 December 1993.] .
* [http://samvak.tripod.com/factoidsindex.html Cyclopedia of Factoids]
* [http://gullible.info Gullible.info, Compendium of Factoids]
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