Geek Trivia

If You’ve Been Told A Factoid, You’ve Been Told What?

A Tiny Fact
A Scientific Figure
Useless Trivia
A Falsehood
What Were Hollywood Set Designers Employed to Camouflage In The 1940s?

Answer: A Falsehood

In modern usage, the term “factoid” has come to mean a little fact, a sound bite of trivia, if you will. This usage, however, is a misuse of the word. The word itself was introduced to the English language in 1973 by Norman Mailer in his biography of Marilyn Monroe.

Mailer described factoids as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper” and The Washington Times expanded on Mailer’s definition to refer to “something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact”. The word’s suffix, -oid, is used in other contexts to refer to things that are like something else, but not equivalent such as planetoids.

The correct word to use in such instances when referring to a tiny and obscure bit of trivia, such as the fact that the gambling capital of the world isn’t Las Vegas, but the Macau region of China, is factlet.

Image by Remi Cauzid/Shutterstock.