Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm searching for a certain single, rare, literary word meaning "something taken as truth due to having been repeated so much". This "something" could be either true or false. It is not necessarily pernicious or benign.

An example of such a "something" (at the risk of getting political) is that Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011.

Does anyone know the word I'm searching for?

P.S.: "Factoid" is ticked — however, there may exist an even better fit.

share|improve this question
2  
fact +‎ -oid; coined by Norman Mailer in Marilyn (1973): "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority". An inaccurate statement or statistic believed to be true because of broad repetition, especially if cited in the media. –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 14:17
1  
@Mitch It doesn't say anything about it being potentially unjustified.... –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 16:24
1  
@Mitch Even I remember having seen truism used in the sense of factoid, whether that's one of the alternate meanings or the author's mistaken use in stead of factoid I am not sure. However, I could not find a reliable source that defines truism that way at all. Even the MW reference you cite does not define the word that way. I had checked that one before. –  Kris Feb 2 at 6:57
1  
That's a pretty bad example, considering that it was a case where evidence was indeed presented. Even if it wasn't true and all that evidence was faked as part of some conspiracy, it still wouldn't count. –  Jon Hanna Feb 10 at 11:42
1  
My point is that it doesn't count either way. Either the evidence is genuine, in which case it is true and believed due to evidence and doesn't count, or it really happened but the evidence is fake, in which case it is believed due to evidence and doesn't count, or it didn't really happen and the evidence is fake, in which case it is believed due to evidence and doesn't count. –  Jon Hanna Feb 10 at 12:10
show 17 more comments

7 Answers 7

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Proof by (repeated) assertion?

… is an informal fallacy in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction. Sometimes, this may be repeated until challenges dry up, at which point it is asserted as fact due to its not being contradicted (argumentum ad nauseam). In other cases, its repetition may be cited as evidence of its truth, in a variant of the appeal to authority or appeal to belief fallacies.

factoid ?

an item of unreliable information that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact: he addresses the facts and factoids which have buttressed the film’s legend

Note (from same source): North American a brief or trivial item of news or information: how does the brain retain factoids that you remember from a history test at school?

The North American usage is different from the basic meaning of the word.

share|improve this answer
    
Also, nice job with the "logical fallacy"/"cognitive bias" link... I should have added that myself. –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 12:21
    
Nice to be help. The first is phrase, not a word, so that could not be an answer in the strict sense. The second has a different meaning in AmE from what it is mostly ascribed with in literature. I had always known and used factoid in the sense of a fallacy, not a bit of trivia. –  Kris Feb 1 at 12:24
    
Yes, indeed, the "answer" is not the first part. My memory must have simply been unclear about the spuriousness of the "fact" - factoid (non-AmE) is the word I was searching for. –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 12:25
add comment

How about, "received wisdom"? "The received wisdom is that Osama bin Ladin died in 2011, but lately there are rumors that he's running a shwarma stand and visiting his mother in Jeddah." Also, "accepted version"?

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the answer :) –  d'alar'cop Feb 20 at 9:21
add comment

Woozle Effect

Or just woozle, referencing the woozle in Winnie the Pooh for which the only evidence is the reports of the woozle.

Proof by Citation

share|improve this answer
    
I like "Proof by Citation." It reminded me of this discussion over this comic, which refers to a similar phenomenon with citogenesis, "a play on the word cytogenesis... [which is] the formation of cells and their development. Citogenesis... is a portmanteau of 'Citation' and 'Genesis'." –  anonymous Mar 28 at 8:19
add comment

Try "Hearsay" or "Ouï-dire" from the french, then if not suitable go with "Tale" or "Tall Tale" if fallacies.

share|improve this answer
    
I appreciate the additional work... Indeed 'factoid' may not really be the word I was searching for... –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 14:22
1  
The problem with 'Hearsay' is that it implies that people think of it as rumour... whereas 'factoid' implies that it has been widely accepted as fact –  d'alar'cop Feb 1 at 14:30
    
In law, hearsay is a technical term which describes a type of evidence. Just because evidence is "hearsay" doesn't mean that it is unreliable. All documents, for example, are hearsay. It is too bad that the popular definition of the term seems to indicate evidence which is inherently unreliable. –  user26732 Feb 21 at 13:05
add comment

This is perhaps a bit reaching but you could call it a 'recursive truth'. Something that is true because it is true.

Alternatives:

'Truth by repetition'

'Truth by mantra'

share|improve this answer
add comment

The words stereotype or cliche might serve the purpose.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think the word you might be looking for is an axiom or axiomatic.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.