When Fake News Means Fake News
US President Donald Trump, for all his garrulity, is not known to be a very precise communicator. And he cannot really blame it entirely on the “constant negative press covfefe”. So, when he rather incoherently claimed last week to have coined the word “fake”, people realised he meant “fake news”. They also realised the claim was, well, fake. Indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which helpfully puts out many commentaries on word usages from time to time, refused to take him at his word, and has not even included “fake news” in its list of additions to the lexicon, even as it gave the go-ahead to “alt-right”. Given his long list of erroneous claims, it is not surprising that the dictionary’s managers have pointed out that the phrase as well as its individual words predate Potus by more than a century. It added that because “fake news” means precisely that — i.e., information that is false — it cannot be listed as a new word until and unless it begets a specific non-literal meaning. All those with a penchant for neologisms should keep this important distinction in mind when formulating and laying claim to catchwords and phrases. But Potus can take heart that Merriam-Webster has at least put “alt-left” — a phrase he used after the Charlottesville unrest in August to counter “alt-right” — on its watch list of possible inclusions.