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Esquivalience
August 22, 2005 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Esquivalience-n. the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities. Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a fountain designer turned photographer who was celebrated for a collection of photographs of rural American mailboxes titled "Flags Up!" Phony entries to dictionaries and encyclopedias to catch copiers. By posting this at work I am practicing esquivalience, no?
posted by caddis (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I couldn't find any other examples. Anyone know of any?
posted by caddis at 2:49 PM on August 22, 2005


So, if I want to refer to the essence of this guy's music, what the hell other word would I use?
posted by kimota at 3:02 PM on August 22, 2005


I don't know. Esquivalience sounds pretty cromulent to me.
posted by driveler at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2005


The government-run Ordnance Survey in Britain does something similar by exaggerating the bends of rivers and tracks in their maps. The Automobile Association published their own and denied infringing the OS's copyright... when the OS pointed out that these false elements had been copied over, the AA had no choice but to pay a BIG settlement. I don't know whether it got to court or not.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:08 PM on August 22, 2005


Using this approach in dictionaries is very risky; after all, someone may pick up the word FROM the dictionary and use it in print, thus making it a valid word.

FNORD
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2005


I thought it was pretty common for map-makers to include non-existing streets to catch cheats.
posted by fixedgear at 3:11 PM on August 22, 2005


Yes, Mapmakers do this, too. (Except they add fake streets and lakes* and mountains* instead of fake words.)

-------------
* The part about lakes and mountains is fake. To catch copiers.
posted by notyou at 3:12 PM on August 22, 2005


In the aftermath of it all, I love that the editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary uses the word 'fakeitude'.

She (Erin McKean) is also the editor of the awesome Verbatim magazine.
posted by Robot Johnny at 3:13 PM on August 22, 2005


So they put fake words in the dictionary to catch people using the dictionary to find new words? How is this helpful in anyway at all? Oh, I see, its so they can sue people? Oh that's just fine then, please continue to spread false information while posing as a fount of knowledge.

fixedgear, it also allowed the mapmakers to laugh like idiots everytime they thought about someone getting lost using their map.

As an aside, I invent words everyday that I do not expect to ever see in a dictionary, it doesn't make them less real and, in light of this post, it might actually make them more real to not be in the dictionary since they put fake words in there.
posted by fenriq at 3:17 PM on August 22, 2005


Yeah, fenriq, someday you'll have your own revolution.
posted by angry modem at 3:29 PM on August 22, 2005


This reminds me of a parlor game where someone finds a wholly impossible word in the OED or such and everyone is tasked with inventing a definition. The chooser collects the definitions and read them out, and everyone else then votes for most likely definition. Who gets the most votes wins. Votes for the real definition go to the chooser.

It can be played with varying degrees of seriousness.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:30 PM on August 22, 2005


and has been made into a board game, IndigoJones (balderdash).
posted by gaspode at 3:32 PM on August 22, 2005


I'm still bucking for 'Flongy' to be admitted.

It means either something that doesn't fit right, or flaps.

"The tire went flat and got all flongy, and then the VW bus sat kinda flongy."

There are four possible spellings with ph/f and ie/y, pick and choose.

I hope to recieve royalties shortly.
posted by Balisong at 3:34 PM on August 22, 2005


So they put fake words in the dictionary to catch people using the dictionary to find new words?
No, they put fake words in the dictionary to keep rival dictionary-makers from stealing their work and selling it as their own.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:34 PM on August 22, 2005


I think the two main examples I always hear concern fake words for dictionaries and fake map entries. I've also heard of inaccurate logarithm tables (when these were crucial for navigation). Snopes effectively validates the map aspect in elucidating on "Philip Columbo," which is itself a further example (for a trivia book).
posted by kimota at 3:35 PM on August 22, 2005


It can be played with varying degrees of seriousness.

I'll start! This is a dopey f*cking game! (footsteps running, door slams, car starts, tires peel out)
posted by hal9k at 3:38 PM on August 22, 2005


and has been made into a board game, IndigoJones (balderdash).

Interesting! Yet another innocent past time tainted by rampant commercialism. Ah well.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:41 PM on August 22, 2005


OK, Don't invite hal9k to the nerdy parties anymore..
posted by Balisong at 3:42 PM on August 22, 2005


Now that's just rude, hal9k. I don't go making fun of your past times
posted by IndigoJones at 3:44 PM on August 22, 2005


Do map makers really do that?
posted by kika at 3:50 PM on August 22, 2005


angry modem, was that a sly way of telling to sit on it and rotate?
posted by fenriq at 3:52 PM on August 22, 2005


as a former electrofisher, I'm disappointed in these investigations.
posted by eustatic at 4:02 PM on August 22, 2005


Here's a web page about how trivia encyclopedist Fred Worth created an imaginary first name for Peter Falk's Lieutenant Columbo. Trivial Pursuit printed the "false fact" verbatim, which led to a lawsuit that eventually got thrown out of court.
posted by jonp72 at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2005


I don't know why there is such outrage about dictionary-writers or mapmakers creating false facts in order to preserve the value of their products from copiers. It seems like lots of other content-producers employ the same strategy.
posted by esquire at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2005


I still like Kimota's question. Esquivalience should be about the study of Esquivel's music. I have the Esquivel Christimas album and could not make it through that season without it.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:07 PM on August 22, 2005


The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this issue, in the context of fake entries in a phone book.

They found there were no damages from the copying, and noted that there was no harm to the public, because no one consults a phone book in order to look up imaginary people's names. However, the fact that the court considered harm to the public at all may mean that fake dictionaries and maps would be treated differently.
posted by mabelstreet at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2005


I used to write application catalogs for an aftermarket auto parts manufacturer. We would make up unavailable applications, (VW Rabbit w/ off road suspension, Honda Civic with HD towing package) assign phony part numbers and wait for them to appear in a competitor's catalog. We called them trap lines. I got my job because my predecessor copied someone else's trap line.
posted by klarck at 5:37 PM on August 22, 2005


Isn't Bush guilty of esquivalience?
posted by caddis at 5:45 PM on August 22, 2005


I get it. Esquivalience is like your tag plagerism--a made up word to prevent plagiarism.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:20 PM on August 22, 2005


Hmmm. If only Matt's spell checker looked at the tags as well as the body of the post...
posted by caddis at 6:34 PM on August 22, 2005


I was hoping that this was going to be about words that should exist (i.e. "procrasturbation"), but don't. Interesting article anyway.

On that note, I think that "esquivalence" also should exist. I'm surprised that it didn't already.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:07 PM on August 22, 2005


This is a nice little thread. It reminds me of the olden (MeFi) days.
posted by etc. at 7:07 PM on August 22, 2005


Teaching music, I always wanted a word that was the aural equivalent of 'imagination'--it just seems silly to talk about imagining a sound.

My best candidate so far is 'audiation'.

'Procrasturbation'...that's funny.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2005


Thanks for posting this! You remind me I need to renew my subscription.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:12 PM on August 22, 2005


driveler wins.
posted by Silky Slim at 8:15 PM on August 22, 2005


I don't care what any of you say, I still think Gilligan's first name was "Willie."

Wait … what was the subject? I started clicking on links and got lost.
posted by maxsparber at 12:34 AM on August 23, 2005


Here's the interesting thing-- not only did they make up the word, but they also made up the etymology, and I think that's supposed to be the real trap. If a rival dictionary were to print that "esquivalience" was a 19th Century word derived from the French "esquiver," that would be clear plagiarism. On the other hand, if a dictionary included the word and printed the etymology as "invented from whole cloth in 2001 by the editors of the Oxford American Dictionary," there really wouldn't be a problem, would there?
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:37 AM on August 23, 2005


Considering that I grew up just down the road from the real Bangs, Ohio (God help me), I found this post extremely amusing.
posted by Liosliath at 4:21 AM on August 23, 2005


The best part is -- if people DO start using this word seriously, not only will we know exactly who invented it and why (which we hardly ever figure out for most words), but it will already be in the dictionary ...
posted by esperluette at 6:25 AM on August 23, 2005


IANAL (... not a lexicographer), but I used to work with a bunch of them. Quite often, keeping erroneous words out of a dictionary is hard enough, let alone putting fake ones in; witness the case of dord in the OED.

Two fake words that I know that have appeared in dictionaries are hink (a vague feeling somewhere between hope and think), and numpkin (a stupid person). The former might be a deliberate fake word, the second is very probably a mistake.

The phrase "what the policeman are you doing?" accidentally appeared in an English-Spanish dictionary, and curiously appeared in an English-Catalan dictionary from another publisher. I believe the matter was resolved in the courts.
posted by scruss at 8:26 AM on August 23, 2005


witness the case of dord in the OED.

For "OED," read "Webster's New International Dictionary" (2nd ed., 1934).
posted by languagehat at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2005


grapefruitmoon, procrasturbation is superb!
posted by fenriq at 2:11 PM on August 23, 2005


Esquivalience-n. the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities.
I plead guilty.

I really should get back to work. But I pledge to use the word esquivalience in every future MeFi thread in which I participate.
posted by wendell at 2:22 PM on August 23, 2005


I just forgot. This is also a common practice among collectors who make price guides. In addition to protecting against copyright (although the Fred Worth case makes that semi-doubtful), it occasionally sends your collector/competitors on a wild goose chase for a nonexistent item.
posted by jonp72 at 11:21 PM on August 23, 2005


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