Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Believe the Facts and not the Factoids!

Don’t believe all the content of grammar books! I’ve just been reminded that not all you read, even in an apparently factual book, is necessarily true. In fact, not all the facts contained in grammar books are actually facts, because they are not, in fact, true. Some facts are actually factoids.

A factoid, according to the Guardian, is not a small fact but is rather a mistaken assumption. For example, I learn that Napoleon, who was supposed to be a small man who sought power to compensate for his lack of height, was not small at all by the standards of the day. In those days, the average Frenchman stood at 5’ 2”, whereas Napoleon was 5’ 6” in height. It is said that the Emperor looked short when flanked by his imperial guards.

That – my mistaken assumption that Napoleon was a very short man – is what is known as a factoid.  Grammar and language books are said to contain quite a few  including the misapprehension that George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “This is something up with which I shall not put,” and once spelt “fish” as “ghoti” – hmm.

It is all too easy to believe things that simply aren't true, but nevertheless we may continue to believe them. The cure is to check your information and make sure your beliefs are factually based.

1 comment:

  1. Here's why you could read ghoti as fish. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti. Mind you, beware Wikipedia as a purveyor of factoids!