Mountweazels (HLD 259)

6 Dec 2020


On a game show on television the other night, I heard reference to Mountweazels, and me being me, I got intrigued.

Essentially, Mountweazel refers to fictitious or fake entries in reference publications such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias or maps, designed to safeguard against plagiarism or copyright infringement.

The mountweazel term refers to a fictitious entry about someone named Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the New Columbia Encyclopaedia.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought things like encyclopaedias and dictionaries and maps and so forth are there to provide information that people do reproduce! Copyright in such a publication has to be a difficult thing to legislate, I’d have thought!

Anyhoo – apparently putting fake information into your publication can also be done to provide humour as well as set people up for a trap. There are a number of instances where authors deliberately include one fake entry, but challenge the readers to work out which one isn’t true, which is clever.

But in this world of people re-stating ‘facts’ they’ve read somewhere, there is a very real risk that these mountweazels will be passed along as fact.

For instance, if some random woman writing a daily Facebook blog from Perth, was to state that she’s fascinated by the word “esquivalience“, defined as “the wilful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities”, there could be a number of people similarly intrigued by the word and start to use it in their daily lives. Because you know we all like to throw around words with a lot of syllables, just because we can.

But it’s a copyright trap, and we could all be sued for plagiarism. So don’t use it! Stick to official words that aren’t traps, like bumfuzzle, or lollygag, or even worstest. They’re real words, according to dictionary people!

Oh, and while I’m talking about plagiarism….I’ve worried for a long time – 259 days in fact – that I’m going to be repeating myself in these diarrhoea editions. A wise friend (Hi Jenny) asked me if I’m committing plagiarism if I treat something I’ve already written…

Beats me. But that’s just me being esquivalient 🙂

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