In 1973 the term 'factoid' was coined by the American writer Norman Mailer to refer to "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper" -- in other words, things that looked like facts, but were actually either falsehoods or unverifiable.

During the 1980s and 1990s CNN Headline News started to use 'factoid' to refer to bits of interesting trivia, and before long Americans were regularly using factoid to mean 'interesting facts'.

So in 1993 William Safire suggested a new word -- factlet. A factlet was a small, and most importantly, true bit of information, or as he phrased it, "little bit of arcana".

This word has not yet caught on, although it continues to pop up among writers and journalists who like to keep their language precise. We have probably passed the point at which it is feasible to preserve 'factoid' in its original sense, although as the internet continues to meme misinformation with increasing speed and penetration, the distinction is perhaps more important than ever.

And that's a factlet.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.