When Fake News Means Fake News

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

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.

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