hoax n : something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage [syn: fraud, fraudulence, dupery, humbug, put-on] v : subject to a palyful hoax or joke [syn: pull someone's leg, play a joke on]
EtymologyHoax is derived from hocus, from the Hoc est in 'Hoc est corpus meum' or 'Hocus pocus', meaning "This is my Body". Hoax then meaning: 'This is'.
- RP: həʊks
- GenAm: hoʊks
- Rhymes: -əʊks
anything deliberately intended to deceive or trick
- To deceive (someone) with a hoax.
to deceive someone with a hoax
- This is about false information. For the film, see The Hoax.
It is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context (see Dihydrogen monoxide hoax). Unlike a fraud or con (which is usually aimed at a single victim and are made for illicit financial or material gain), a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke, to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social change by making people aware of something. Many hoaxes are motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public and the media or the absurdity of the target. For instance, the hoaxes of James Randi poke fun at believers in the paranormal. The many hoaxes of Alan Abel and Joey Skaggs satirize people's willingness to believe the media. Political hoaxes are sometimes motivated by the desire to ridicule or besmirch opposing politicians or political institutions, often before elections. Journalistic scandals overlap with hoaxes to some extent.
Governments often perpetrate hoaxes to assist them with unpopular aims such as going to war (e.g., the Ems Telegram). In fact, there is often a mixture of outright hoax, and suppression and management of information to give the desired impression. In wartime, rumours abound; some may be deliberate hoaxes.
The word hoax is said to have come from the common magic incantation hocus pocus. "Hocus pocus", in turn, is commonly believed to be a distortion of "hoc est corpus" ("this is the body") from the Latin Mass.
Character of hoaxesHoaxes are not always created, initiated or sourced the same way. Examples:
- Hoax by tradition (see below)
- Hoax by design (such as in war)
- Hoax originating in legitimate non-hoax use (see email hoax below)
- Hoax by scare tactics (virus hoaxes)
- Urban legend
- The Great Moon Hoax of 1835, which helped to establish the market position of the New York Sun.
- The Cardiff Giant of 1869, which was created and "discovered"; reputedly after an argument about the reality of giants.
- In what became known as the Berners Street Hoax in 1810, Theodore Hook tricked hundreds of people into showing up at a random address in Central London.
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion () is an antisemitic literary forgery that purports to describe a Jewish plot to achieve world domination.
- Idaho, the northwestern US state, was named as the result of a hoax. Lobbyist George M. Willing suggested the name, claiming it was a Native American term meaning "gem of the mountains." It was later discovered that Willing had made up the word himself. As a result, the original Idaho Territory was renamed Colorado. Eventually, the controversy was forgotten and the made-up name stuck.
- Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre radio broadcast on October 30, 1938, entitled "The War of the Worlds" has been called the "single greatest media hoax of all time", although it was not — Welles said — intended to be a hoax. The broadcast was heard on CBS radio stations throughout the United States. Despite repeated announcements within the program that it was a work of fiction, many listeners tuning in during the program believed that the world was being attacked by invaders from Mars. (Rumors claim some even committed suicide.) Rebroadcasts in South America also had this effect even to a greater extent.
- The 1934 "Surgeon's Photograph" of the Loch Ness monster, revealed some sixty years later to have been a plastic head and neck mounted to a toy submarine.
- The Bathtub hoax, perpetrated by American journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken in 1918, which was cited as factual even after the hoax had been revealed by the author.
- Jorge Luis Borges published "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", a fantastic short story about an author who rewrites Don Quixote word by word, as a real biographical note in the Argentinian magazine Sur.
- The Sokal hoax was a fake paper published in the journal Social Text, which was intended to reveal the uncritical misuse of scientific terms and ignorance of science in the field of postmodern cultural studies. It is recounted in Beyond the Hoax and Fashionable Nonsense.
- The Zinoviev Letter, said to have been concocted by British intelligence and printed by the Daily Mail to swing the outcome of a general election by claiming a Soviet revolution was about to occur in the UK. The hoax was successful in that a Conservative government was elected.
- The Piltdown Man fraud caused some embarrassment to the field of paleontology when apparently ancient hominid remains discovered in England in 1912 were revealed as a hoax some 41 years later.
- In 1970, Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind contrived to write an autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, believing Hughes would not come out of hiding to denounce it. Irving sent a manuscript to his publisher McGraw-Hill in late 1971. Authentication tests and Hughes's initial silence led some to believe the manuscript was genuine, but Hughes eventually gave a teleconference denying both participation in the book and knowledge of Irving. Weeks later, Irving confessed to the hoax and was later convicted of fraud. He served 17 months of a two and a half year prison sentence. Suskind, sentenced to six months, served five.
- The Hitler Diaries, 1983 forgeries published by the Sunday Times.
- The Cottingley Fairies, a series of trick photographs taken by two young British girls from 1917 to 1920.
- The alien autopsy film, supposedly footage of the examination of an extraterrestrial being which had purportedly died in the Roswell UFO incident. The film, presented by Ray Santilli in 1995, was later revealed to have been faked by Santilli and Gary Shoefield.
- In the late 1970s and early 1980s, photographer Robert B. Stein created convincing UFO photographs using only a Kodak Pocket InstaMatic camera and throwable discs, and claimed to be a contactee. His pictures appeared in many publications devoted to the paranormal. In 1985, he revealed how it was done.
- Rosie Ruiz finished first in the women's division of the 1980 Boston Marathon by riding the subway to a point near the finish line and jumping back into the race. Her marathon title was revoked when the hoax was discovered.
- In the 1970s the Philippine government announced the discovery of the Tasaday a supposedly uncontacted stone-age tribe. Revealed to the world in a cover story in National Geographic, much controversy has ensued as to whether the tribe is real, a hoax or something in between.
- The Priory of Sion (French: Prieuré de Sion), a mythical secret society sworn to install the Merovingian dynasty on the throne of France, was fabricated in the 1960s by a French con artist, Pierre Plantard, who wanted to be perceived as the "Grand Monarch" prophesied by Nostradamus. False documents created as part of the hoax have been used as reliable sources for bestsellers purporting to be non-fiction such as the controversial The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as well as novels such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.
- The Paul is dead hoax of 1969 had it that Paul McCartney of The Beatles was secretly replaced after a fatal car accident in the late 1960s. "Clues" have been discovered by fans on different song lyrics and album covers. This hoax was not started by The Beatles themselves, but by a caller into a radio show on 12 October 1969. Paul McCartney is one of the two Beatles still alive.
- Bonsai Kitten, an Internet hoax consisting of a fictional domain of a company that sold kittens inside jars as ornaments.
- In 2006, A.N. Wilson was the victim of a hoax when he included a love letter by Sir John Betjeman in his biography of the poet. It turned out to be a fake letter with an acrostic that said "AN Wilson is a shit".
- De Grote Donorshow, a hoax reality television program which was broadcast in the Netherlands on Friday, June 1, 2007 by BNN. The program involved a supposedly terminally ill 37-year-old woman donating a kidney to one of three people requiring a kidney transplantation. Viewers were able to send advice on who they think she should choose to give her kidney to via text messages. 50 000 people subsequently requested an organ donor form.
April Fool's Day
- The April 1, 1985, issue of Sports Illustrated featured "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" by George Plimpton. The article was about an eccentric pitcher said to be a prospect for the New York Mets who could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour. The hoax was perpetrated with the knowledge of the magazine and of the baseball team. Plimption later reworked the material into a novel.
Famous musical hoaxes
Hoax traditionsDuring certain events and at particular times of year, hoaxes are perpetrated by many people and groups. The most famous of these is certainly April Fool's Day, which is open season for pranks and dubious announcements.
A New Zealand tradition is the capping stunt, wherein university students perpetrate a hoax upon an unsuspecting population. The acts are traditionally executed near graduation (the "capping").
Many Spanish-speaking countries have Innocent's Day, on December 28, to make "innocent" a person with jokes and hoaxes. The origin for the pranking is derived from the Catholic feast day Day of the Holy Innocents for the infants slaughtered by King Herod at the time of Jesus' birth.
Email hoaxAn example email hoax is a doctored image distributed via chain emails, as pictured here. The photo image imbedded in this email was actually intended for an online photo-manipulation contest and not for distribution as a falsehood, but was distributed by another person who allegedly attributed the photo as originating from a 1954 Popular Mechanics Magazine article. In truth, the magazine never published it in 1954, but they did publish an article in December 2004 exposing it as a hoax.
Careful examination of the image will typically reveal unnatural flaws in it; for example, shadows and lighting. The television set appears to be hung on the wall without any apparent means of supporting mechanisms, and the shadow is wrong. The man has shadows on his clothing inconsistent with the surrounding lighting, and he has no shadow on the wall behind him. The form-feed paper exit on the front of the teletype printer is misaligned with the paper feed port at top, and the paper exit port is supposed to be behind and under the printer, not in the front. In addition, the computer's console is actually the Maneuvering/Reactor Control Panel of a nuclear submarine (specifically the USS Trepang (SSN-674)) on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2001 another image, purporting to be the "National Geographic Photo of the Year" and depicting a shark leaping from the sea to attack a helicopter crew member, was widely distributed by email, prompting the magazine to publish an article uncovering the hoax. As the article revealed, the image had been composited from two photographs taken in entirely different locations.
hoax in Czech: Hoax
hoax in Danish: Hoax
hoax in German: Hoax
hoax in Spanish: Hoax
hoax in Esperanto: Hoakso
hoax in French: Canular
hoax in Indonesian: Hoax
hoax in Italian: Bufala (burla)
hoax in Hungarian: Hoax
hoax in Dutch: Hoax
hoax in Japanese: 悪戯
hoax in Polish: Mistyfikacja
hoax in Portuguese: Hoax
hoax in Russian: Мистификация
hoax in Albanian: Hoax
hoax in Sicilian: Buria
hoax in Slovak: Hoax
hoax in Serbian: Ланчано писмо
hoax in Swedish: Hoax
hoax in Ukrainian: Містифікація
hoax in Chinese: 惡作劇
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