Friday, October 30, 2009

A little word geekery

FAQ is originally an acronym* for Frequently Asked Question, but as often happens usage has drifted. In this particular case, marketing occasionally co-opts FAQ to mean, "A question contrived to produce the message we're really trying to get through as an answer." These range from fairly innocuous, like "Does your product support <some cool feature>?" or "How can I purchase <your wonderful product>?" to the more egregious, like "Is your product much more stable than <evil competitor's>?" ("Why yes, I'm glad you asked that question ...")

Either way it smells of Astroturf**. My personal reaction ranges from amusement, if the information is at least useful, to annoyance if it's not. But the question here today is, is there a word for it? My thought was "FAQE", but while a bit of googling indicates that other people have had the same idea, a bit more googling indicates that few, if any, people are actually using it that way.

And that's actually about as much time as I care to spend on the topic.

* If you pronounce it as a word, like NATO or WASP, it's an acronym, regardless of whether the word existed previously (WASP) or not (NATO). If you pronounce it as letters, like FBI or NBA, and you're feeling pedantic it's an initialism. If you're not, it's also an acronym.

** There should probably be a trademark in there someplace, even though we're not referring to the lovely green carpet used in sports stadiums. Please don't sue.

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