• Mathias Klang
  • This sign is more of a factoid, really

A quick search of the Reader online archives reveals nine instances in which we used the word factoid, but who can blame us? We didn’t know. Alexis Madrigal is here to clear things up. He blogs at the Atlantic that the common usage is incorrect. The suffix -oid isn’t diminutive, as he had thought; a reader wrote in to remind him that in this context it’s rather more derogatory, meaning “resembling, but not really a member of some category”—humanoid, for instance, doesn’t mean “little human.” So factoid means “not really a fact.”