Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”

The fun thing about the word "esquivalience" is that it isn't an actual word. Instead, it is a fake entry (or Mountweazel)that the New Oxford American Dictionary placed in their 2005 edition as a sort of copyright protection tool. The New Yorker ran an article on this some time ago, but I just now heard about the concept for the first time from one of my coworkers.

From the sounds of it, it’s been a practice of dictionaries and encyclopedias to include a single fake entry in order to help keep other references from just plagiarizing their work. The idea being that, if another source copies them word for word, they'll also copy the fake information... thereby proving where the source stole their information from.

I just think the whole idea is really cool, and would love to find out some more of these fake words and entries. Alternately, you can go over to Digg and read a bunch of people getting bent out of shape about it. I like this one in particular:

"Kind've lame in my opinion. This type of information should be FREE, anyways. You should just be paying for the paper it's printed on."

Or, "The Dictionary, instead of the stupid Goddamn Bible, is the one book that should be free on request. I find this analog drm crap appalling. The one book you should be able to trust is a dictionary."

Apparently, in my US Citzenship class, I missed the part where every American was guaranteed the Freedom of Dictionary Access. And, I love the whole idea of comparing these fake entries to DRM (Digital Right Management) for digital music and videos. C'mon people, let's find a little perspective here!

Perhaps, their indignation is just another example of their esquivalience.

Regardless, I think it would be great if these words slowly do become part of the English language.

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