Monday, August 29, 2005

Today's Word: Esquivalience

Today's word is not a word! I know, I know - I've often had to fight and argue that my words here are all real. None of them made up or invented! This, my faithful readers, is the solitary exception!

It's fake!

But it's important because it's a part of history - it's a secret!

I learned about this via a New Yorker Article.

As you will see if you read the article, 'esquivalience' is a linguistic trap!

Publishers of research-intensive tomes realized that providing definitions and encyclopedic reference materials presented a unique challenge in terms of copyright-protection. What could stop a copycat publisher from simply riding in the wake of their hard-work by simply copying their text?

Thus was borne a secret tradition. Encyclopedias, dictionaries and other reference guides were seeded with 'fake' listings which could be used as red flags in case a publisher suspected a competitor of plagiarism. The practice dates back as far as the late 1800's!

'Esquivalience' first appeared in the 2001 copy of the New Oxford American Dictionary and was only exposed earlier this year in a second printing of the 2005 edition.

The New Oxford American Dictionary's definition of 'Esquivalience' is a "willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities."

Very appropriate since the fake-definition is quite in-line with what publishers have been trying to prevent for over 100 years!



Blogger . said...

Mr. Word,

That is the coolest story! I wonder who thought that up- very wise.


8:23 AM  
Blogger The Book of Gideon said...

I intend on using this code word meself in the near future. Nothing more exciting than catching a thief.

9:19 AM  

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