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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Literature/Language
What’s Your Title?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Aug 19, 2013
The New York Department of State recently ruled that it's illegal to use corporate honorifics if you're not actually part of a corporation. Sounds logical, unless you're a real estate agent. Because it's long been the practice for real estate agents to use fancy titles like "Senior Executive Vice President" or "Managing Director," even though technically they work as independent contractors for firms. They're not on the staff. Now all their business cards have to go in the shredder, or they face a fine of $1000 per violation. Naturally, they're not taking this change lying down. Instead, they're busy inventing new titles for themselves, such as Nikki Field who now calls herself a "Senior Global Real Estate…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (2)
Did Gerard de Nerval walk his pet lobster through Paris?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 25, 2013
Legend has it that the 19th-century French Romantic poet Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855) had a pet lobster named Thibault that he took on walks in the Palais Royal gardens of Paris, using a blue silk ribbon as a leash. When asked why he did this, he replied Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? Or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (1)
New article about I, Libertine hoax
Posted by The Curator on Sat Feb 16, 2013
Matthew Callan has written a great account of Jean Shepherd's 1956 I, Libertine hoax: The Man Behind The Brilliant Media Hoax Of "I, Libertine" theawl.com Shepherd inspired fierce loyalty in his listeners who would tune in to listen to him in the middle of the night. These listeners embraced his term for them, "night people," and under his direction they would execute one of the biggest and most bizarre media hoaxes of the 20th century. The hoax was meant as a strike against their opposite: "day people," that is, against phoniness and squareness—all those 50s words—as well as a joke on New York pretension. In our time of memes, virality, and…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (0)
Johan Lehrer tries to understand himself
Posted by The Curator on Wed Feb 13, 2013
In July 2012, science writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker under a cloud of shame, after it was revealed that his latest book, Imagine, was full of fabricated quotations. Yesterday, he took what he may have been hoping was a first step toward rehabilitating his public image by giving a confessional talk at a Knight Foundation seminar in Miami. If image-rehabilitation was his goal, it probably didn't work, because most of the coverage of his talk was snarky and cynical about his intents, especially after poynter.org reported that he was paid $20,000 for speaking. As Lehrer spoke, a giant screen behind him showed real-time tweets about the talk,…
I actually find it more surprising that he's still cranking out books at the age of 89 than that he's using a female pen name. Good for him! It's inspiring! Bills and boon! 'Female' romance author Jessica Blair unmasked as 89-year-old grandfather Daily Mail The grandfather from Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, was told his books would need to be printed under a feminine moniker if he wanted them to sell - and so his pseudonym Jessica Blair was born. Bill, 89, has so far written 22 romance novels under the female pen name since his first was published in 1993, with his latest, Silence of the Snow, due out this week.
The Diamond Club—an erotic literary experiment
Posted by The Curator on Fri Aug 10, 2012
Justin Young and Brian Bushwood, of the NSFWshow podcast, were intrigued by the success of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. They were particularly impressed with how many books were selling well for no other reason, apparently, than that they looked Fifty Shades of Grey. So they decided to conduct an experiment — to find out whether an ebook could succeed simply by resembling Fifty Shades of Grey. They came up with a title for their novel, The Diamond Club. They also sketched out a rough outline of a plot: When Brianna Young discovers that Roman Dyle, the man she built a relationship…
The Origin of the Word Quiz
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 10, 2012
'Quiz' is a relatively new word. It first came into use in the late 1700s, making it a little over 250 years old, and there's a curious story about how it came into being. The tale goes that it emerged from a wager made in 1791 by Richard Daly, manager of the Theatre Royal in Dublin. Daly bet his friends that within 48 hours he could make a nonsense word be spoken throughout Dublin — specifically, a word having no meaning nor derived from any known language. His friends took him up on the bet. So Daly sent out his employees to write the word "QUIZ" in chalk on doors, windows, and walls throughout Dublin.…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (0)
Brief Answer: No! Longer Answer: If you do a search for the phrase, "The best things in life make you sweaty," you'll find quite a few sites (facebook and tumblr pages especially) attributing this quotation to Edgar Allan Poe. There's even a short article at the Richmond County Daily Journal which uses this supposed Poe quotation as its lead. Of course, Poe never said this. Nor was it the kind of thing he would have said. I doubt Poe was a big fan of sweating. His greatest passions were writing and drinking. Neither of those activities make you sweat much. I'm not sure where the quotation (and…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (5)
Naked Came the Stranger: the x-rated movie
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 17, 2012
As I noted in my previous post, Mike McGrady, creator of the 1969 "Naked Came the Stranger" literary hoax, died recently. A little-known footnote to this hoax is that it inspired an x-rated movie in 1975. Here's the trailer for that movie. (It's pretty much safe for work.)
RIP Mike McGrady
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 17, 2012
Mike McGrady was the mastermind behind the Naked Came the Stranger hoax of 1969. His aim was to show that any book with enough sex scenes, even if lacking in any other merit, could sell well. And the book he created to prove this point did sell well. Although its sales had a lot to do with the fact that McGrady's sister-in-law, the attractive Penelope Ashe, posed as its author. Which shows that the good looks of an author can definitely sell books. And, of course, the book sold even better once it was exposed as a hoax, demonstrating that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Mike McGrady Mike…
Hungary’s president steps down after plagiarism scandal
Posted by The Curator on Tue Apr 03, 2012
Did he not intend to plagiarise, or did he not intend to get caught? Hungary's president steps down after plagiarism scandal telegraph.co.uk Last week Semmelweis University revoked Mr Schmitt's doctorate after a special committee concluded he had copied "word for word" large chunks of his 1992 thesis on Olympic history. In parliament the 69-year-old president reiterated claims he made on Friday that had not intended to plagiarise and that examiners should have raised any problems with his thesis at the time... (Thanks, Joe!)
In my article about the origin of April Fool's Day, which I wrote a few years ago, I noted that the first explicit reference to April 1st being a day for pranks can be found in a poem written in late-medieval Dutch (around 1561) by Eduard De Dene. The title of the poem is "Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach." Marco Langbroek kindly translated this for me as: "Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April." But it recently occurred to me that although I knew about the poem, and had the title translated, I had never seen the full text of the poem itself. And in fact,…
The Markham Plagiarism Case
Posted by The Curator on Mon Nov 14, 2011
QR Markham, author of the spy thriller Assassin of Secrets, has been accused of plagiarism, as people identify multiple passages in his book that originally appeared elsewhere (such as in books by Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum). The publisher (Little, Brown) has recalled all copies of his book. And it turns out that a Huffington Post article written by Markham also used the words of someone else. So Huffington Post removed all articles by him. In other words, things aren't going well for Markham. But what makes this case strange is an article in the New Yorker by Macy Halford, speculating that Markham (which is the pen name of Quentin Rowan) deliberately used other…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (4)
Sons of Clovis
Posted by The Curator on Mon Oct 24, 2011
There's a new hoax-related book out that sounds interesting: The Sons of Clovis: Ern Malley, Adore Floupette and a Secret History of Australian Poetry by David Brooks. From the Sydney Morning Herald review: At the heart of the book is the famous Australian hoax, the Ern Malley affair, in which two young, still-forming poets, McAuley and Stewart, fabricated the raw, working-class identity Ern Malley, only to have him die tragically young, leaving behind his book of experimental poems, The Darkening Ecliptic (1944). Equally - and this is where the detective work really kicks in - the book is also about a late- 19th-century literary hoax that…
Dobrica Cosic Doesn’t Win the Nobel Prize
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 06, 2011
Serbian media reported Thursday that one of their own countrymen, writer Dobrica Cosic, had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, he hadn't. Soon after, the Swedish Academy announced the real winner: Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. The Serbian media reported Cosic as the winner because they had all received an email, seeming to come from the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, announcing Cosic as the winner. The email linked to a website, nobelprizeliterature.org, that seemed to confirm Cosic as the winner. However, both the email and the site were fakes. (link) Apparently Cosic is a strong Serbian nationalist. The Economist describes him as, "the intellectual godfather of the…
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