Fictitious entry

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Fictitious or fake entries are deliberately incorrect entries in

paper town, phantom settlement, and nihilartikel.[1]



New Columbia Encyclopedia.[2][3] The entry described Lillian Virginia Mountweazel as a fountain designer turned photographer, who died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine. Allegedly, she was widely known for her photo-essays of unusual subject matter, including New York City buses, the cemeteries of Paris, and rural American mailboxes. According to the encyclopedia's editor, it is a tradition for encyclopedias to put a fake entry to trap competitors for plagiarism.[4] The surname came to be associated with all such fictitious entries.[5][6]

The term nihilartikel, combining the Latin nihil ("nothing") and German Artikel ("article"), is sometimes used.[1]

Copyright traps

By including a trivial piece of false information in a larger work, it is easier to demonstrate subsequent

mathematical tables: "those [errors] that are known to exist form an uncomfortable trap for any would-be plagiarist".[7] Similarly, trap streets may be included in a map, or invented phone numbers in a telephone directory

Fictitious entries may be used to demonstrate copying, but to prove legal infringement, the material must also be shown to be eligible for copyright (see

E.D.N.Y., 1992).[8]

Reference works


Fictitious entries on maps may be called

trap streets,[14] paper towns, cartographer's follies, or other names. They are intended to help reveal copyright infringements.[15] They are not to be confused with paper streets
, which are streets which are planned but as of the printing of the map have not yet been built.

Trivia books

  • Fred L. Worth, the author of The Trivia Encyclopedia, placed deliberately false information about the first name of TV detective Columbo for copy-trap purposes. He later sued the creators of Trivial Pursuit, as they had based some of their questions and answers on entries found in the work. The suit was unsuccessful, as the makers of Trivial Pursuit were able to show that the game was based on questions and answers about facts obtained from a number of sources, and the information was laid out in a way that was demonstrably different from the original "encyclopedia".[20]

Other copyright infringement

  • In the summer of 2008, the state-owned Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute (Slovak: Slovenský hydrometeorologický ústav, short: SHMÚ) suspected that a competing commercial service, the website, was copying their data. (This is legal in most countries, where such data is either offered under a free license or deeded into the public domain, but not in Slovakia.) On 7 August 2008, SHMÚ deliberately altered the temperature for Chopok from 9.5 °C to 1 °C. In a short time, the temperature of 1 °C appeared for Chopok at as well.[21]
  • hiybbprqag", "delhipublicschool40 chdjob" and "juegosdeben1ogrande" each returned a link to a single unrelated webpage. Nine of the hundred fraudulent results planted by Google were later observed as the first result for the bogus term on Bing.[22][23][24]
  • In 2019, media company Genius revealed that they had caught Google reprinting their song lyrics as "Featured Snippets" on top of Google search result pages. The former company used a mix of two different types of apostrophes (curly and straight) in several of their song lyrics. When converted to Morse code, these apostrophes spelled out the phrase "Red Handed".[25]

Scrutiny checks

Some publications such as those published by

Harvard biologist John Bohannon are used to detect lack of academic scrutiny, editorial oversight, fraud, or data dredging
on the part of authors or their publishers. Trap publications may be used by publishers to immediately reject articles citing them, or by academics to detect journals of ill repute (those that would publish them or works citing them).

A survey of food tastes by the U.S. Army in the 1970s included "funistrada", "buttered ermal" and "braised trake" to control for inattentive answers.[26]

In 1985, the fictitious town of Ripton, Massachusetts, was "created" in an effort to protest the ignorance of state officials about rural areas. The town received a budget appropriation and several grants before the hoax was revealed.[27]

Humorous hoaxes

Reference publications

  • The
    association football
  • Zzxjoanw was the last entry in Rupert Hughes's Music Lovers' Encyclopedia of 1903, and it continued as an entry in subsequent editions down to the 1950s. It was described as a Māori word for a drum. It was proved to be a hoax. The Māori language does not use the letters J, X or Z.
  • Most listings of the members of the
    German parliament feature the fictitious politician Jakob Maria Mierscheid, allegedly a member of the parliament since 1979. Among other activities, he is reported to have contributed to a major symposium on the equally fictitious stone louse in Frankfurt.[28]
  • The 1975
    New Columbia Encyclopedia contains a fictitious entry on Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942–1973).[2] Her biography claims she was a fountain designer and photographer, best known for Flags Up!, a collection of photographs of rural American mailboxes. Supposedly, she was born in Bangs, Ohio, and died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine. Mountweazel was the subject of an exhibit in Dublin, Ireland, in March 2009 examining her fictitious life and works.[29]
  • The first printing in 1980 of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians contains two fictitious entries: on Guglielmo Baldini, a nonexistent Italian composer, and Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup, who purportedly composed a small amount of music for flute. Esrum-Hellerup's surname derives from a Danish village and a suburb in Copenhagen. The two entries were removed from later editions, as well as from later printings of the 1980 edition.
  • The
    Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit includes entries from Tales of Maghrebinia, a 1953 collection of short stories by Gregor von Rezzori set in a fictional Balkan country.[30]

Practical jokes

  • University of Heidelberg
  • Taro Tsujimoto is a fictional character often included in Buffalo Sabres reference works. Tsujimoto, an alleged Japanese forward, was the creation of Sabres general manager George "Punch" Imlach, designed to fool the National Hockey League during the 1974 NHL amateur draft; Imlach drafted Tsujimoto and only months later—well after the pick was made official—admitted that the league had been fooled by the fictitious player.
  • Martin Marty
    as an ongoing injoke among theologians, including a book and a parody lecture series at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
  • Sports Illustrated commissioned an April 1, 1985 cover story from George Plimpton on "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch", a fictitious self-taught baseball player who could pitch a baseball as fast as 168 mph.
  • At least two
    Georgia Tech have long included George P. Burdell, a fictitious student originally created as a practical joke by a Tech student in 1927, in their lists of lettermen
    in team media guides:
  • Jean-Baptiste Botul is a fictional French philosopher created in 1995 by the journalist Frédéric Pagès and other members of a group calling itself the Association of the Friends of Jean-Baptiste Botul. Originating as a literary hoax, the names of both Botul and his philosophy of botulism derive from botulism, an often deadly type of food poisoning. The works of Botul have been cited by authors who missed the joke, including most notably TV personality Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Puzzles and games

Fictitious entries in works of fiction

Legal action

Fictitious entries may be used to demonstrate copying, but to prove legal infringement, the material must also be shown to be eligible for copyright. However, due to the

Feist v. Rural
lawsuit, where the Supreme Court (USA) ruled that "information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected by copyright", there are very few cases where copyright has been proven and many are dismissed.

Simple errors

Often there will be errors in maps, dictionaries, and other publications, that are not deliberate and thus are not fictitious entries. For example, within dictionaries there are such mistakes known as

ghost words, "words which have no real existence [...] being mere coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or to the perfervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors."[37]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Nihilartikel". World Wide Words. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Henry Alford, "Not a Word", The New Yorker August 29, 2005 (accessed August 29, 2013).
  3. ^
    OCLC 1103123
  4. .
  5. .
  6. ^ Garner, Dwight, "In ‘The Liar’s Dictionary,’ People Work on the Definition of Love and Many Other Words", New York Times, January 5, 2021. Review of The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams (Doubleday). Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  7. ^ L. J. Comrie, Chambers's Shorter Six-Figure Mathematical Tables, Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1964, p. vi.
  8. ^ Fred Greguras, U.S. Legal Protection for Databases, Presentation at the Technology Licensing Forum September 25, 1996. Archived March 1, 2005 on the Internet Archive.
  9. .
  10. ^ "Repair Radio Episode 4: Interview with David Pogue and Amanda LaGrange - YouTube". Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  11. ^ "'Glitch of the Pentagon': There's a reason you might not have heard of this monster". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  12. ^ The word: Copyright trap New Scientist October 21, 2006
  13. ^ Williams, Eleanor (2016). "Chapter 3: Flights of Fancy and Unhinged Birds: Fictitious Entries as Nonsense Literature" (PDF). Unclear Definitions: Investigating Dictionaries' Fictitious Entries through Creative and Critical Writing (PhD). Royal Holloway, University of London.
  14. ^ SA Mathieson, "A sidestep in the right direction", The Guardian, May 11, 2006.
  15. ^ "The Fake Places That Only Exist to Catch Copycat Mapmakers". Gizmodo. April 3, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  16. ^ .
  17. ^ "Centrica and Ordnance Survey settle AA copyright case", March 5, 2001.
  18. ^ Andrew Clark (March 6, 2001). "Copying maps costs AA £20m". The Guardian. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  19. ^ Punt PI, BBC Radio 4, September 18, 2010
  20. ^ Worth v. Selchow & Righter Company, 827 F.2d 596 (9th Cir. 1987).
  21. ^ SHMÚ suspicious that is stealing their data News portal (in Slovak)
  22. ^ Pogue, Glenn (February 2, 2011). "On Google's Bing Sting". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "Bing Copying Google? Bing Accused Of Stealing Search Results". The Age. Australia. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  24. ^ ""Hiybbprqag?" How Google Tripped Up Microsoft — Tech Talk". CBS News. February 2, 2011. Archived from the original on February 4, 2011. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  25. ^ Kreps, Daniel (June 16, 2019). "Genius Claims Google Stole Lyrics Embedded With Secret Morse Code". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 2, 2022.
  26. ^ "Funistrada, the Army's 'Ghost Food' - Entropic Memes". Archived from the original on October 1, 2020.
  27. Boston Globe
    , Boston, MA (published July 16, 1985)
  28. ^ "The phantom of the Bundestag". The Economist. December 10, 2014.
  29. ^ "The Life and Times of Lillian Virginia Mountweazel" Archived October 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, March 20, 2009. Retrieved March 27 2009 (subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries)
  30. .Chuzpephoros, Eirene, Eustachios, Přzibislav
  31. ^ See, e.g., "All-Time Letterwinners" (PDF). Georgia Tech Football 2016 Media Guide. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. p. 136. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  32. ^ See, e.g., "Tech Letterwinners" (PDF). Georgia Tech Basketball 2016–2017 Information Guide. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. p. 82. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  33. ^ "Teknikmagasinet – meningen med livet" [Meaning of life] (in Swedish). Teknik magasinet. Archived from the original on April 3, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  34. ^ "The Courier - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  35. ^ The "Philip Columbo" story" Ultimate Columbo Site (Accessed March 7, 2006)
  36. ^ "Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Co., 796 F. Supp. 729 (E.D.N.Y. 1992)". Justia Law. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  37. ^ W. W. Skeat, The Transactions of the Philological Society 1885-7 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1885-7) Vol. II, p.351.

Further reading

  • Michael Quinion: "Kelemenopy", World Wide Words (Accessed September 25, 2005)

External links