Though we typically discuss words and phrases that have evolved through centuries worth of meanings, usages, and definitions or have developed a needs-based use from combining other individual terms, this doesn’t mean that we have reached the pinnacle of linguistic use – new words are still being invented. Though it may not seem like it, with the ease and speed of global communication, it can be argued that the pace of lingual imports, exports, and overall development is only increasing. Today, we get to examine one of the newest words and examples of this development, infox.
Simply put (or as simply as we can make it), today’s word is a portmanteau of French words designed to replace an English term that has evolved over the last several years to define something that has been a part of politics and information as long as there have been people to record it. Confused? Let us explain.
As long as there has been language, there have been attempts to persuade. Sometimes, this persuasion isn’t always the “full truth”, meaning that it can veer into propaganda through use of selective/deceptive reporting (aka misinformation) and loaded language. While one of the first recorded instances of this can be found in Rameses the Great’s portrayal of the Battle of Kadesh as a decisive victory in the 13th century BC, the most easily relatable and understandable recent variation occurred soon after Donald Trump entered the US Presidential race in June of 2015, when he first uttered the term “fake news”. Given the global media coverage of the race itself and the extensive usage of the term both on the campaign trail and in the White House as well as in all corners of social media, it’s no surprise that the term soon started popping up in foreign languages as well.
As could be imagined, some countries, trying to protect the integrity of their language, have instituted groups to try and prevent the encroachment of English, developing native terms to use in place of English terms (aka Anglicisms). A prime example of this is La Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française (Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language), which has suggested using the term “infox” in place of “fake news”.
The term itself, found in Le Journal Officiel on October 4, 2018, is a combination of infos, the shortened form of information, and intox, which is a shortened form of intoxication, which can mean not only intoxicated in the literal sense, but also spreading propaganda, deceiving, or influencing people’s ability to think critically – in other words disinformation or a hoax. Outside of its shortened form, information fallacieuse, or, in English, fallacious information, which is fake news, is also suggested for usage.
While some of CELF’s suggestions, such as frimousse in place of a smiley emoji and courriel for email, have had some degree of success, others, like mobile multifonction for smartphone and l’accès sans fil à internet for WiFi, have fallen into disuse or even derision. As for the fate of infox, only time will tell.