Geek Trivia

A Nihilartikel Is A Device Used To Entrap?

Currency Counterfeiters
Movie Pirates
Insurance Scammers
Recently Mathematicians Around The Globe Have Taken To Hoarding?

Answer: Plagiarists

Fictitious entries are a tool used by publishers to establish that a competitor has copied their publication. What these fictitious entries are called varies by industry. Dictionary makers use ghost words, entries for totally fabricated words that will stand out if the entries of their dictionary are copied. Map makers employ a wide variety of such fictitious entries including trap streets (fake streets) and paper towns (fake towns)–the latter of which was certainly made more famous by the John Green novel Paper Towns and its subsequent film adaptation in which a paper town is a central plot point.

In the same vein, a nihilartikel–a combination of the Latin nihil (for “nothing”) and the German artikel (for “article”), is used in encyclopedias and other long form reference works. The “nothing-article” is about, well, nothing. The writers behind the reference work create a fake entry about a fake thing (that isn’t so outrageous as to stand out) and then later, if that same fake thing appears in another reference guide, they can use its presence as grounds for a claim of copyright infringement.