Talk:Fictitious entry

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From Wikipedia:Translation into English[edit]

Since this task is now complete, I've moved this here. -- Jmabel 01:01, 2 May 2004 (UTC)

  • Article: de:Nihilartikel
  • Corresponding English-language article: (none known)
  • Worth doing because: Looks fascinating and highly relevant to people interested in encyclopedias as such
  • Originally Requested by: Jmabel 07:55, 14 Mar 2004 (UTC)
  • Status: I think this is now completed. Some content is not translated, but it's mostly voluminous and not obviously relevant notes and a few isolated sentences. The German article looks like it was extracted from an academic paper; ours is tighter. -- Jmabel 06:11, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  • Other notes: I'd do this one myself, but I think it is beyond my level of German. It has to do with apparently legitimate works containing invalid references. I don't think we have an English-language article on the topic. -- Jmabel 07:55, 14 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Wow, I think it was beyond mine too, but I was excited enough about the concept that I tried anyway. I have written a semi-sad attempt at Nihilartikel, but had to stop halfway in (at a reasonable stopping place) because I realized I was in water that had gotten too deep. Hopefully someone is willing to do the rest? If not, we have I think a decent representation, except for the fact that I couldn't find a satisfactory translation for "Nihilartikel" -- any ideas? (User:Jwrosenzweig)
I think there is nothing wrong with "borrowing" the German word "Nihilartikel" as long as we explain its etymology. Please, could one of the fluent German-speakers continue this translation, looks worthwhile. -- Jmabel 03:56, 28 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I think this is now complete. If no one else remarks here within a few days, I'm removing it from this list. -- Jmabel 06:11, 29 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Other talk[edit]

Could we see some expansion here -- are there motives behind the Nihilartikels beyond simple personal amusement of the editor, such as to trap potential copyright violators (compare "trap streets")? --Daniel C. Boyer 19:17, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Description as "paradox" is a bit questionable IMO. Maybe Catch-22? --Daniel C. Boyer 19:18, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)

As it stands, the section "Nihilartikels in scientific literature" is pretty incoherent. Probably still need thorough translation of the corresponding section from the German. -- Jmabel 22:37, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I think the issue is that the German article's section is pretty tough -- it's the section that stopped my translation in its tracks. I believe the section is trying to explain that hoaxes such as Piltdown man or the mid-1800s hoax about people from Edinburgh flying to the moon are given a lot of press, and are treated as a serious phenomenon by scientific journals, etc., but Nihilartikels (because they are only brief entries in encyclopedias) are simply seen as fanciful lies unworthy of such scrutiny. Do you think I'm close? Thanks for your work cleaning up after a recent well-meaning translator, Jmabel. And I do think DCB is right about a comparison to trap streets, but don't know how to bring it in. Any ideas? :-) Jwrosenzweig 22:45, 27 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Ah damn, I missed the discussion here. I think I will move some stuff from the posts I made at the user-pages here, so some changes become clear.
One problem of the ""Nihilartikels in scientific literature" is that it is really short in the german source - but then filled up with a lot of german reference articles from papers. I see no sense in putting them here, so I left them out. This is what makes the leftover sentence a bit arkward. Jwrosenzweig describes the meaning of this small chapter quite well - perhaps it would be better to take this explanation over to the article.--Thomas 09:48, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Stuff i wrote at Jmabels user page - it may clarify some edits:
I tried to stay very close to the german orignal, but even the original isn't easy to read (typical for german science works).
One thing: The word "dictionary" does not equal the german word "Lexikon". A "dictionary" as I understand it is a book where you would look up translations - or maybe how to write a word (called "Wörterbuch"). A "Lexikon" is a book where you look up meanings and facts about things - well like in the Wikipedia. So I think "encyclopedia" is closer - or even "Lexicon"(if this is a common used word in English). I let the choice up to you of course. I like your chapter about "Motivations for the creation...". Very interesting. I will take it to the german version I think. :-).
By the way - I just realised that the "Classification"-chapter is out.
The first sentence in the classification-chapter (in the german version) says nothing more than that Eco's work is a good help for classification. It does not go into specifics - and since I dont know what it really means, I just translated it word to word.
The second part of that chapter begins with a confusing sentence. But it realy says "The definition of fakes is characteristic for Nihilartikels". Then the indeted part tells that the intention of these fakes are often more than jokes - they have a philosophical thought behind them (about the "communication process"). Was it too confusing in the translation. Should I try to take it in again?--Thomas 01:25, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Can anyone provide evidence that the word Nihilartikel is used in English? --Wik 18:58, Apr 28, 2004 (UTC)

I'm quite sure it isn't. As the article states, both the word and the concept are German. I don't believe we have an equivalent English-language term, but if we do, the article should move there. Lacking an English-language term, I think it is appropriate to borrow the German. -- Jmabel 22:51, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)
It's not for us to borrow words like that. The article gives the impression that the word is used in English, i.e. that others have borrowed this word before. It should be clearly stated that it is a German word, not a German-derived English one. In fact, I think we should use a descriptive title like "Fictitious entries in encyclopaedias" rather than this non-English term. --Wik 23:02, Apr 28, 2004 (UTC)
I've now clarified that the term is German, not a common loan-word. As for the title: I don't believe there is any policy against foreign-language words in titles where no English-language word exists, but if you can show me one, I'll gladly defer to it. Quite a few of the foreign-language Wikipedias are chock-full of English-language borrowings in similar situations. -- Jmabel 23:39, 28 Apr 2004 (UTC)

on: Classification as a literary genre[edit]

The section ==Classification as a literary genre== is probably now clearer in the English than in the original German, but I still think it is nearly useless, and I'd be inclined to remove it from the article. In effect, the section says, "If you wanted to classify Nihilartikels as a literary genre, you could start from this essay by Eco (which doesn't mention the term) and could (in some unspecified manner) link it to this book by the (pseudonymous) Luther Blisset. What they (or someone, again unspecified) has to say about 'fakes' is mostly apropos of Nihilartikels, except [now comes the one maybe useful phrase, to my mind - JM] the intentions of Nihilartikels hardly transcend the level of (insider) jokes (among editors of lexica and a good part of the readers)." Then it goes on to a quote from Blisset that I don't find even to be necessarily apropos, more Blissets view on the effect of fakes in general than anything to do with Nihilartikels in particular.

To spare you flipping back and forth, I reproduce the section here:

Umberto Eco's essay "Towards a Semiological Guerrilla Warfare", originally published in 1967 and collected in Travels in Hyperreality (ISBN 0156913216) can serve as a starting point for a further classification of Nihilartikels in the category of Fakes. It could be linked to the Luther Blissett fakes (cf. Handbuch der Kommunikationsguerilla, Verlag Libertäre Assoziation Hamburg o. J. [1997], ISBN 3922611648).
The definition of fakes is also characteristic of a Nihilartikel. However, the intentions of Nihilartikels hardly transcend the level of (insider) jokes (among editors of lexica and a good part of the readers):
"A good fake gains its effectiveness from a productive mixture of imitation, invention, alienation, and exaggeration of prevailing modes of language. It imitates the voice of power possibly perfectly, to be able, in a restricted period of time, without being discovered, to speak in its name and with its authority... The goals is... to generate a communication process in which &ndash often exactly through the (intended) discovery of its falsehood &ndash the structure of the faked communicative situation itself becomes the issue. [...]" (Blisset, op.cit., p. 65)

Yes, I know this is in the German Wikipedia; I don't feel like fighting about it there, because the German Wikipedia has a lot more pretentious vacuous academy-speak than we do (and the French Wikipedia is worse). Anyone object to my removing it from the English-language article and leaving it just here in the talk page? Alternatively, anyone interested in tracking down these works and saying something substantive about how they are relevant, instead of simply asserting their relevance? -- Jmabel 00:10, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Hi Jmabel, I think it is meaningful to include the connection to Eco and Blissett as they are two of the most recent and most succesfull authors to exploit fakes and nihilarticles. In order to explain why they are deemed relevant to the topic, I cannot see how we could avoid a discussion of post-modernism in philosophy and literature, which would lead to more "pretentious vacuous academy-speak". The point in question, briefly, is the following: A fake (like a nihilarticle) is an intrinsic critique of the medium employed for communication, it is in fact meta-communication. It demostrates (in an ironic way), when used as a social-political tool, the strenght of marketing and propaganda. A good example would be so called "viral marketing". As a critical tool, it can be used in various disciplines. This has been argued in theory by Eco and demonstrated in practice by various Luther Blissetts (which is a collective personality, a pseudonym for different groups). I could elaborate on this, if you deem it relevant. I have some of the mentioned works. Greetings, Cat 09:40, 2 May 2004 (UTC)
Carlo: If you will look at my remark above, you will see that I am already aware that Luther Blissetts is a pseudonym. As I said, sure, I'd be glad to see this material expanded rather than deleted. I agree that some digression into discussion of post-modernism (or at least of certain post-modernist ideas) is inevitable (and relevant). As this stands, it's more a piece of name-dropping than it is anything informative. Yes, by all means flesh it out. I know a lot of Eco's work, but not the "Semiological Guerrilla" article, and I know of the Luther Blissets material, but have not read it, so I am not the one to do this. -- Jmabel 03:04, 3 May 2004 (UTC)

I deleted this section. Neither the description of Eco's nor Blisset's quote are explicitly about this topic. If anything, the section is original research here -- maybe better on a fakes or hoax page, but not here. If their relevance to the topic requires "a discussion of post-modernism in philosophy and literature", then they are not directly relevant to the topic. --Ogdred 00:45, 26 August 2006 (UTC)


I notice that 'Michael Riegel "Fehlerquelle" ("Sources of error"), in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin' in the article was recently changed to 'Michael Ringel...' Google searches lead me to think this is probably right, but it's hard to tell: the only hit on either name with "Fehlerquelle" looks irrelevant, and I can find both associated with the Süddeutsche Zeitung independently of copies of this article. Could someone with a login name, who has access to a German library, possibly confirm? (page numbers would be nice on an article citation, too.) -- Jmabel 04:30, Jul 10, 2004 (UTC)

Connections with honeytokens?[edit]

I'm wondering if there are connections between Nihilartikels and "honeytokens", which are not yet mentioned at Honeypot but probably should be. Honeytokens are records, inserted into databases that include sensitive information, which have no legitimate data and thus are extremely unlikely to ever be accessed legitimately. The article mentions the use of Nihilartikels to trap plagiarists, and honeytokens are to trap intruders, so there seems to be a connection... -- Antaeus Feldspar 01:10, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Certainly another similar concept. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:26, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)


Why the "see also" link to "Fnord"? The relevance escapes me. -- Jmabel | Talk 02:02, Jan 3, 2005 (UTC)

Spoof article in Grove's Dict, of Music[edit]

I understand there is a spoof article in the edition of Grove before the current one. I will make enquiries Apwoolrich 11:38, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Exchange moved from the respective user talk pages:

"Some would say" is not exactly a citation. Do you have evidence on this? It's not like Finnegans Wake is short on invented words. -- Jmabel | Talk 03:01, Feb 16, 2005 (UTC)

No, I don't have a reference, and no, I am not a Joyce expert.

However, I CAN say that I was exposed to the idea that "quark" was a typo in a printed source before I'd even read Portrait of the Artist. But more importantly, some years later, I'd heard the idea agreed to by a student who wrote their Master's Thesis on Ulysses. Since that time, I had thought that this interpretation was considered, if not accepted, by the mainstream of Joycean scholars. While an internet search conducted in response to your objection found nothing that specifically calls the word a typo, plenty call it a nonsense word. I can understand why the interpretation that Joyce had composed intending that "K" has found adherents; it is the rhyme with bark and Mark. However, I don't think that the internal rhyme created is essential to a reading of the segment; it would read as well if "quark" were rendered "quart"; Gell-Man's beer hall interpretation to support his pronunciation is justified, I think. Further, it is quite established that Joyce was quite amenable to allowing the residue of accident to be preserved in his manuscript. And there I can reference the well-known occurence that during the dictation of Finnegans a visitor had knocked on Joyce's door, to which he had replied "come in." These words were immediately included by his stenographer; thereupon, he looked towards Joyce for approval of the words' immediate deletion. Joyce smirked and told the stenographer to let the words stand. Given that, and given that there is considerable doubt that Joyce was aware of the Middle English form at one time meaning "to caw," and given that the most common interpretation of "quark" is that it was merely a mispronunciation of "quart" by a drunken pubgoer, I don't think that my statement in what after all is not an article on Joyce, but rather on words, should be dismissed out of hand simply because I am not an expert on Joyce, and can't give you a scholarly citation off the top of my head. However, if you feel so strongly about it that you feel you must delete it, go ahead; I am not expert enough in Joyce write the persuasive paper necessary, nor do I in any event wish to participate in an edit war.

Rastro 01:05, Feb 17, 2005 (UTC)

Given the lack of citation I am going to revert this. Probably a quarter of the words in Finnegans Wake are in some sense nonsense words. In "Three quarks for Muster Mark" I see no more reason to think "quark" is a typo than "Muster". -- Jmabel | Talk 01:17, Feb 17, 2005 (UTC)

<end moved comments>

If someone has citation for this, then it belongs somewhere in Wikipedia, although even then its relevance to this article is not obvious to me.

Nihilartikels in Wikipedia[edit]

It strikes me that in an environment such as Wikipedia, we ought to have lots of examples of good Nihilartikels to point to. Yes, I know a lot of them have been sent to BJAODN, but even those we can referenced (although we'd have to use external links to reference them, so they work when content is copied by other sites). I added the classic San Serriffe, including a link to an early version which contained no explicit clue that it was a hoax. What about User:Bishonen/European toilet paper holder - would this one be a good one to add? I only hesitate because I'm not sure that will be its permanent location. Noel (talk) 14:10, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia:No self-references. JFW | T@lk 17:59, 8 Mar 2005 (UTC)
"No self-references" isn't a problem here. Read it more closely: at most it means we'd need an external link. However, User:Bishonen/European toilet paper holder is not a Nihilartikel, the joke is much too transparent. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:13, Mar 8, 2005 (UTC)

Eh, the closest I've found that is mistakeable for a valid Wikipedia article is Uncyclopedia. I get the feeling Uncyclopedia articles could be squeezed into Wiki articles without anyone noticing at first. It is clearly a parody, but because it is easy enough to link to, as if an article there were valid, I'm saying it might count. --samwaltz 15:01, 10 July 2005 (UTC)

I've been thinking about this, following someone adding Esquivalience as a dicdef. I know we discourage self-references, but I do think it is possibly worth noting this; a lot of Wikipedia articles are added explicitly as "tests", to see if someone can get misinformation in. (I VfDed three two weeks back, all about blatantly fictional Aztec gods - but they'd been ignored for a couple of months.)
As with those, almost all these articles get deleted; usually people try too hard, and make it obvious it's a fake. I think we can be reasonably sure there's a trivial number of fictional articles in here, mostly biographies, but it is likely that a lot will never be found except by random chance. I strongly suspect that other Wikipedia-like projects have the same problem - h2g2 has editorial oversight, but you could probably get someone "too obscure for the DNB" in.
Would a section discussing the existence and recurrence of "breaching" Nihilartikels, like this, in online open-access reference works such as Wikipedia be sufficiently non-self-referential? It is an interesting topic, one that would complement the article quite well. The only major problem is that it'd have to by definition be mostly unreferenced; all the articles in question are either rewritten (which is less interesting, since it only covers a subset) or deleted when we find them. Shimgray 14:16, 28 August 2005 (UTC)
We do already mention an old version of Uqbar that was a Nihilartikel. I don't think self-reference is a problem here; I am a little concerned about effectively encouraging people to create Nihilartikels in Wikipedia in hopes of getting mentioned. I think it probably is worth discussing the phenomenon of how this becomes especially tricky in a radically open work like a wiki. You might want to look for more examples of articles which, like the cited version of Uqbar, sat here for a significant period of time before being detected. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:15, August 29, 2005 (UTC)
Uqbar lasted for ~3 weeks before you tagged it disputed, but then another three months before deletion. Did you know it was fictional when you tagged it, or just suspect? (Huh. San Serriffe lasted less than twelve hours!). And there was Jamie Kane recently... Teothuauci was the one I saw - deleted now, but IIRC a couple of months before being caught. Battle of Blenau, too.
If you can remember any examples, I'd love to hear them - but I don't have the stamina to go digging through VfD. Shimgray 15:53, 29 August 2005 (UTC)
I knew that the description came out of the Borges story. What I didn't know was that there was a real place called Uqbar. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:41, August 30, 2005 (UTC)
I've put in 4 nihilartikels into Wikipedia so far, with 2 being found and subsequently deleted, yet leaving 2 undetected as of November 25 2005. These nihilartikels have begun to appear less bogus, as they have been "wikified" by some other users (including a sysop). So there's gotta be hundred of nihilartikels in here, statistically. --Wonderfool t(c) 15:45, 25 November 2005 (UTC)
(Note: Wonderfool was blocked after making this comment. Wikipedia:Hoaxes are considered serious vandalism.) Ashibaka tock 23:04, 22 March 2006 (UTC)


The article contains the hidden text "User talk:Bishonen/European toilet paper holder is NOT a good example. It's in user space, and it's more of a parody than a true Nihilartikel". As of now, the front page of Wikipedia has 'Today's featured Nihilartikel', with a link through to that very page.-Ashley Pomeroy 09:58, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  • Yes, and in fact I'm the person responsible both for the text here and for the suggestion that we use that labelling on the front page! "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson. Mostly my issue is that it's in user space, so it's not really part of the encyclopedia. And, paradoxical as it may seem, explicitly linking to it as a Nihilartikel made it less of one, since the stealth element was removed. I suppose now that it has been so prominently displayed, though, the case against mentioning it here is weaker. What would people think of having a link from the article to a 1 Apr 2005 version of the article and a remark about it having been an April Fool's Day feature on Wikipedia? -- Jmabel | Talk 21:17, Apr 1, 2005 (UTC)

Trap streets[edit]

Does the note on Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Co. really belong here, or just in trap street? -- Jmabel | Talk 03:27, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)

A trap street may not be copyrighted but a Nihilartikel really can be copyrighted. I can create an article about Martian squirrels. If you reproduce it without my license, you're dead meat (at least on theory). I think Nihilartikels are a different story. -- Toytoy 05:35, May 20, 2005 (UTC)


We seem to keep going back and forth on the phrase "or U-Boot (German for submarine)". I really don't care if it is in the article or not, but a recent edit summary suggesting it is vandalism is certainly wrong. This is in the obviously well researched German article from which this was originally translated; it was put there by the primary author of that article.

Again, there is no "proper English" name for this phenomenon. What little literature I've been able to find in English uses the German Nihilartikel, so that is what I have entitled this. U-Boot seems to have an equally good German pedigree, but I've never seen it used with this meaning in English, so its inclusion here is not very important. But it is almost certainly not a hoax. -- Jmabel | Talk 19:48, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)

It's certainly in there. How very odd; I'd have assumed it was a rather odd joke as well. I suspect this'll pose problems, becuase it *looks* like vandalism... anyway, the link - [1] "Nihilartikel (auch: U-Boote)".
Suggested solution - the name U-boot doesn't seem to be in use in English, probably because "Nihilartikel" just sounds so damn funky. If it's accurate, though, it is worth including as an alternate name. Perhaps if we phrase the initial section as:
A Nihilartikel is a deliberately fictitious entry in an encyclopedia or dictionary, which is intended to be more or less quickly recognized as false by the reader. The term "Nihilartikel" is German and combines "nihil" (Latin for "nothing") and "Artikel" (German for "article"). There does not appear to be any commonly used English-language term for this phenomenon. The phenomenon is also known by the term "U-boot" in German, meaning submarine.'ll seem less silly. Also, this gives us a useful point to hang other manifestations of the term, if someone turns up and says "Hey, Russian has a great word for this exact concept, it's a popular sport amongst academics in Vladivostok...". Thoughts? Shimgray 14:28, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
Fine, but I'd word it as The phenomenon is also known in German by the term "U-boot", meaning submarine. -- Jmabel | Talk 23:37, May 20, 2005 (UTC)

George Psalmanazar[edit]

Why mention George Psalmanazar? That article is about a hoax, but as far as I can tell, it's not about a Nihilartikel. -- Jmabel | Talk 06:03, May 20, 2005 (UTC)

Alleged nihilartikel in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians[edit]

I have the 1980 edition of the New Grove, all 20 volumes of it, and there is no entry for Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup, either under Esrum, Hellerup, Henrik or Dag. Have you perhaps spelled it incorrectly, or referenced the wrong edition? Antandrus (talk) 01:06, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Problem solved: turns out I have the 1995 reprint, which excised them. There were actually two nihilartikels in the 1980 edition, and they're written about succinctly (and hilariously) in the 2002 New Grove article "Spoof." I added all this info to the article. Antandrus (talk) 20:13, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Added Mountweazel information[edit]

In this New Yorker column from August 2005 comes information about an english name for this: Mountweazel. I didn't add a link to the article because I don't know how to do that or even if Wikipedia links to outside sources.

  • I don't think they are using this as a common noun. I think they are using this the same way one would say, for example "He was a Bendict Arnold." I do not think this qualifies as an English-language word for this phenomenon. There are only 340 Google hits for "Mountweazel" (I guess there will be more as a result of this discussion!), and nearly all of the first 40 are simply discussions of that one 1975 Nihilartikel. "Nihilartikel" has 11,900 Google hits; roughly half of the first 40 are in English. This word "Nihilartikel" has passed into English. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:45, September 8, 2005 (UTC)
    • I've added a redirect from Mountweazel. Shimgray 12:10, 8 September 2005 (UTC)


Does the Sokal Affair qualify ? Ze miguel 13:43, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

  • I'd consider that more a hoax than a Nihilartikel. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:43, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Adolph Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenberdorf[edit]

This might be a Nihilartikel. In the deletion discussion, somebody claimed to have seen it "in the Guinness Book of World Records (an edition published circa 1980)", probably as a record for the longest surname. I have voted to delete this as an unverified hoax, but if somebody can dig this up, it might become an entry on this page. A claimed source on that article is "Schmidt, Anja, editor. A Day-By-Day Review of World Events: Today in History. San Diego, Calif.: Tahabi Books. 2003 (p.123)" Kusma (討論) 01:00, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

The attempted entry may be a reference to the purported Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, who appeared on I've Got a Secret on July 20, 1955, and again on June 18, 1958. A blowup was shown of his entry in the phone book. Richard K. Carson (talk) 05:55, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Is "The Camel" really a defeat for Wikipedia?[edit]

The Camel shows well how (in this single, not necessarily representative case) Wikipedia's social control mechanisms failed completely.

Did they? One could argue that TC has after all been revealed to be fictitious by its being mentioned in the Nihilartikel article: even if it was the author itself who did this, s/he can be considered a Wikipedian after all -- which means Wikipedia did discover it. And regardless of that one could always argue that WP is (still?) work in progress, so it isn't a Nihilartikel within a finished encyclopaedic work but just a hoax that might well have been discovered during WP's further development. (Of course you can't tell, the old problem of assigning truth values to dispositional properties.) /A childish "got you!" 23:53, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

You're arguing with yourself? How endearing. We've always assumed we were seeded with deliberate fakes - it's not like we don't find a few each day, god knows I've unearthed a handful and deleted them - but I hadn't seem a half-decent case study written up... I've redirected The Camel to Camel for now, and rolled back the recent additions to the main article here; it's probably worth mentioning here, per earlier comments on talk, but as an example not as a detailed case study and not in that style. Thoughts? Shimgray | talk | 00:04, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
An outright forgery intended to mislead the reader on a matter of substance would not generally be classed as a mere Nihilartikel.
That's the last sentence preceding the "Wikipedia case study". "The Camel" is a hoax, not a Nihilartikel, the "case study" should be removed from the article. <KF> 00:06, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
I would suspect that, as with most Nihilartikels, this survived unquestioned mainly because almost no one even stumbled across it. As remarked above, we remove dozens of bogus articles every day; I suspect that their half-life is usually a few days; the fact that this particular one lasted longer than most is only of marginal interest. - Jmabel | Talk 01:07, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

This article might be a hoax[edit]

See also: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2006-07-31/Listserv

This article's name is most probably a hoax that has originated at the German Wikipedia de:Nihilartikel. Discussions about this can be found under the follwing links: (threads #219, #220, and #221). It is claimed that the word Nihilartikel did not exist before this Wikipedia entry (i.e. the article is itself a Nihilartikel). However, it is not disputed that this kind of encyclopedia articles do exist, as this articles nicely shows (although all sources should be checked). Cacycle 16:09, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Quite funny actually. Obviously the word exists now, giving this article the right to exist... Piet 10:34, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
That is interesting. I removed the hoax tag initially because, while the name may be a hoax, fictitious articles do actually exist, as is well pointed out. I'm still of that opinion - hoax tags should be used only if the article's content may be fictitious. However, to avoid a revert war, I'll wait to take it out. If it does turn out that this name was created by the German Wikipedia, I'd still recommend we keep it, since it appears to have entered common usage, even if we inadvertenly coined it. - Bootstoots 15:29, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
There seems to be about 10,000 google hits on it. That seems too many to be a hoax.WolfKeeper 23:20, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Wolfkeeper: If you check those "about 10,000 google hits" you will see that most sites have obviously taken their info from Wikipedia (or are full copies of the Nihilartikel article).

Quite a few are. But it doesn't look like they all are. 10,000 is a *lot*. I've never seen that many hits with other things based on wikipedia articles. That's evidence against this being a hoax.WolfKeeper 03:19, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not clearly states that Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought (like a newly created word). If the article name is indeed a word created by an anonymous user and/or a hoax (and everything points into this direction) we should move the relevant content to fake entry (now a redirect here) (or something similar). Nihilartikel should contain only information about the hoax together with a link to the fake entry article.

Cacycle 02:57, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Even if it was a hoax (I'm not clear at this point), it doesn't seem to be anymore. Somebody somewhere has coined a neogolism and it has stuck. So AFAICT it's not a hoax anymore, even if it ever was.WolfKeeper 03:23, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

WolfKeeper: I disagree. We are an encyclopedia and not a site to invent and promote our own neologisms. Knowingly keeping a hoax article would really hurt Wikipedia's overall credibility. If the word already came into common use (which I doubt - most Google hits are copies or quotation from Wikipedia or links to the Wikipedia article) we would have to elaborate on the hoax itself in the Nihilartikel article and link to a separate fake entry article.

See Wikipedia:Sources. It states that sources should be cited to show that an edit is not original research (or a hoax). Up today nobody was able to find a pre-Wikipedia mention of this word. So we would be on the safe side if we split the article as proposed. If somebody indeed finds a pre-Wikipedia citation we could always adopt to that.

Cacycle 14:01, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

I looked into the google situations some more, there's nothing really there; there's no articles using it, a few possibly fake comments in various forums. However the word 'Mountweazel' means the same thing and has some kind of pedigree, so I think the article should perhaps be moved to 'Mountweazel' and tidied up (at the moment Mountweazel redirects here).WolfKeeper 16:15, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
Ugh, no. If we're going to have a corny neologism for it, let's just keep the current one rather than "Mountweazel". Shimgray | talk | 16:20, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
I first came to the article looking up the phrase "Copyright trap" which redirects to it. That phrase has a slightly different connotation than nihilartikel, but it seems to be widely used.--Trystan 18:34, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
But doesn't "copyright trap" have a broader meaning than Nihilartikel? Presumably, not all Nihilartikels are copyright traps, and certainly not all copyright traps are Nihilartikels (typos and such could be used to similar effect). Like it or not, Wikipedia seems to have coined the most widely-used term for a fictitious entry in a reference work. I'm going to have to oppose the recent page move on the grounds that this term is now notable. - Bootstoots 03:03, 5 August 2006 (UTC)
Do you have a non wikipedia/wikidictionary reference for it being notable?WolfKeeper 03:09, 5 August 2006 (UTC)
[2] probably took it from us, but treats it as a general concept. Our coining of it (or, rather, our anonymous German contributor's coining of it) appears to predate "Mountweazel", though, and we don't have any other decent term. This refers to a dictionary word for the concept (not a German compound) which the writer can't remember, though, which holds out some hope. Shimgray | talk | 11:38, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Wolfkeeper has moved the artikel from Nihilartikel to copyright trap. I have reverted the move because there are many examples of "Nihilartikels" which are definitely not copyright traps, actually many of them are jokes. Please discuss moves on this page first.

Copyright traps aren't necessarily nihilartikels, since a nihilartikel is something deliberately designed to be obviously a hoax, whereas copyright traps need not be at all obvious, so it's a more general concept. And we're probably going to have to delete nihilartikel; it has no referenced etiology at all, no german dictionaries seem to contain it, and so forth.WolfKeeper 04:37, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

My suggestion would be a "neutral" descriptive term like fictitious entry. All those other names including "copyright trap" would redirect there. That would blend nicely into the many other "fictitious" articles on Wikipedia (see Wikipedia search). Cacycle 04:21, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps we should just create an article 'Fake articles in dictionaries,encyclopedias and maps'.WolfKeeper 04:37, 6 August 2006 (UTC)
That name is clearly not acceptable. It must be Fake articles and entries in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference books, lists, and directories as well as fictitious places, streets or other intentionally fake insertions in maps. Cacycle 17:03, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

I have moved the old Nihilartikel to fictitious entry and have adapted the text accordingly. I have also set up a short new article Nihilartikel about the hoax. Cacycle 03:51, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

The German article is still at Nihilartikel. Ditto in several other Wikipedias. - Jmabel | Talk 06:20, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

In this article the term "nihilartikel" redirects to this same article, which is nonsense. I removed the linking. 17:34, 30 August 2006 (UTC) Nahuel

Elaborate trolling[edit]

Nihilartikelism sounds like an elaborate form of trolling. Mathiastck 22:16, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Other wikipediae[edit]

Could someone who knows the languages please notify the Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese wikipedias of the hoax, so they can correct their articles too? — Catherine\talk 05:51, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Dubious citation[edit]

The "World Wide Words" article recently cited in the first paragraph looks like it was done by someone who did no research of his own and merely cribbed from this article. How can that possibly be citable? - Jmabel | Talk 05:20, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Penny Arcade[edit]

Can someone clarify if the Penny Arcade thing happened inside the comic? --Apoc2400 06:35, 23 October 2006 (UTC)


I recall the Demomotus hoax as being particularly notorious on this Wikipedia back in 2004-- an article on a fake Greek philosopher that remained part of the Pedia for several months. By the time he was spotted, Demomotus had made appearances on several philosophy-related websites, all of which presumably used Wikipedia as a source. Is this notable enough to be mentioned in this article? Fishal 09:45, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Depends where he showed up and how long he remained. Certainly if this still has some currency, it would be worth a mention. - Jmabel | Talk 21:18, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Æblerød in en:wikipedia[edit]

I've added an entry about the fictitious Danish municipality Æblerød at en.wikipedia. It was featured in an article about wikipedia in Danish newspaper Politiken December 5th, 2006 (2. division page 1). While the Æblerød article itself seems to be deleted without a trace (other than its deletion log, also in Portugese), traces can still be found in the history of Municipalities of Denmark: diff of creation of reference and diff of deletion of reference. - According to the article in Politiken, the Æblerød entry was created by an otherwise serious editor as an experiment. He also created fictitious registrations involving the placename Æblerød (e.g. about Æblerød church and about a bar in Æblerød) in some official Danish registers. - Should this Æblerød entry be expanded (nice idea, I think), deleted (I think not), or replaced by a more notable instance of a fictitious entry in wikipedia (nice if you have a good candidate)?--Niels Ø 22:10, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

See also da:Wikipedia:Landsbybrønden/Æblerød, with an entry in Danish by the editor, en:user:Valentinian (also da:user:Valentin), who requested deletion of Æblerød from en.wikipedia. Here's a translation:

As I was working on articles anout counties, region and fusion of municipalities, our main contributor in the field, en:User:Sfdan contacted me to ask if this article was a joke or not, as he could find no documentation for the existence of the municipality in his maps or lists. I could inform him that it was complete nonsense. It is not so strange that the article was not removed any earlier, as the contents neatly had been copied from a similar article, merely changing the numbers. The vandal had even been so kind as to indicate that his creation was in Ringkjøbing County, and thus that was nicely stated at pt:wiki too, with infobox and everything. I nominated the article for speedy deletion at en:wiki, and appended a link to the list from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of municipalities as documentation. At the same time I followed the link to pt:wiki, and asked the translator to have pt:'s copy deleted, appending the same link. Both things happened very fast. I cannot imagine any other reason for the article surviving for so long than that it was a clone of similar material. I think it managed to survive for ½ - 3/4 years, which was some surprise. That is also the reson that it manged to be copied as much as it apparently is the case. As mentioned, the article existed at en: and pt:wiki only. I do not know if the misunderstanding about other wikis was caused by my mentioning to the journalist that I have had users at it: and nl:wiki correct some minor things about Danish municipalities, but it had nothing to do with the "Æblerød" case. I must get around to reading that article. --Valentin 8. dec 2006 kl. 03:00 (CET)

The last bit refers to the Politiken article. As documented above, Valentin is mistaken about the lifetime of the en.wikipedia article. Preceding the section translated above, Valentin wrote the following, as a reply to an earlier post by da:user:Palnatoke:

Palnatoke asked me for some input about this article, and the story is really very short. As I became aware of it at en:wiki, I checked da:wiki to be on the safe side, and there was nothing corresponding to it there. The article had been created by an anonymous user at en:wiki, from where it later was copied to the Portugese Wiki together with a series of other articles about Danish municipalities.

--Niels Ø 09:43, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Concerns about a reference[edit]

The article listed as reference number three does not actually support the point that it claims to. You may want to look into this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:55, 17 March 2007

Here's the relevant quote from the article:

...inclusion of one or more trap streets on a map or invented phone numbers in a telephone directory (neither of which is effective for copyright purposes in the United States; see Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Co., 796 F.Supp. 729, E.D.N.Y., 1992).<ref>Fred Greguras, [ U.S. Legal Protection for Databases], Presentation at the Technology Licensing Forum September 25, 1996. Archived March 1, 2005 on the [[Internet Archive]].</ref>

...and here's the relevant quote from the linked source:

Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Co., 796 F. Supp. 729 (E.D.N.Y. 1992).
This case involved two taxi drivers' guides to New York City which contain mileage rates, public services, restaurants and similar information. The plaintiff alleged infringement of its guide. The court held that most of the information, represented as facts, could be freely copied. The defendant admitted that portions of its guide were taken from the plaintiff's work. The court applied Feist's requirement that infringement occurs only with respect to elements that are original. The selection of the most important and helpful cross streets and assignment of address numbers for the streets was found to be original. Finding this "streets most useful to a taxi driver" portion to meet the originality standard, the court issued an injunction preventing the defendant from copying only that portion of the guide.

No mention of traps or fictitious entries in that source, but still it may have a bearing on their effectiveness in courts in USA. What to do?--Niels Ø (noe) 08:33, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Other referencing issues[edit]

I removed a number of unsourced examples from the "Reference works" section. I suggest that if we are going to be accusing other reference works of misleading their readers, we had better make absolutely sure that we have a very reliable source for that information. Jkelly 01:59, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Possible Copyright Words[edit]

A couple of decades ago I stumbled across "krex" in Webster's 3rd. I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist anywhere else. It's been a while since I checked though. Joseph N Hall 04:30, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

Nihilartikel update[edit]

The originator of the German article claimed Oct 2006 that he (or she) didn't invent the word "Nihilartikel". He quoted a German newspaper (article "Der Orthodidakt" by Katharina Hein, Berliner Morgenpost July 16, 2000) as evidence: „(....) dass jedes Lexikon im Fachjargon ‚Nihilartikel‘ genannte Stichwörter enthält.“ ("... that every encyclopedia contains terms which are called 'Nihilartikel' in expert terminology."). This article isn't available online and I was too comfortable until now to search for it in a library. But I found a mailing list archive [3] where a librarian from the University of Hildesheim used this word Jan 14, 2003 (the German Wikipedia article has been created Sep 15, 2003): "Es geht um sogenannte 'U-Boot-Artikel' (fachsprachlich 'Nihilartikel') - also in seriöse Nachschlagewerke 'eingeschmuggelte' Artikel über nicht existierende Personen oder andere Sachverhalte." ("It [my question] is about so called 'U-boat articles' ('Nihilartikel' in expert terminology) -- thus articles about not existing persons or about other issues, which have been smuggled into reputable reference books."). This mail has been saved by Mar 2003 [4], so the date is real. Even as long the quote from Berliner Morgenpost is unconfirmed, I recommend removing the statement, that the term "Nihilartikel" has been invented by a Wikipedian. --Matthäus Wander 09:19, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

I have modified the intro accordingly, and hope someone (perhaps you, Matthaus? please forgive the lack of umlaut...I'm using my wife's Mac and don't know the shortcuts as I do on the PC) can find better info on where the term truly originated (given the remarks made in that email, clearly this wasn't the coining of the word). I'd like to thank you very much for your work on this--this couldn't have been easy to track down, but it's important to me, at least, as the original co-translator of the article into English (and therefore someone who cares a bit about getting this right). Jwrosenzweig 09:18, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Are we entirely certain that the originator of the German Wikipedia article is not the same person who wrote to that mailing list? Or perhaps someone else on the list tickled by the neologism? It would seem an odd coincidence that the first online mention would come from only a few months before the German Wikipedia article.--Pharos (talk) 19:02, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Google Books now returns a use of "Nihilartikel" in Das Studium der Kunstgeschichte: Eine praxisbetonte Einführung, originally published 1999. Their scan could be of the second, 2003 edition, but either way, it almost certainly predates the Wikipedia article. Warofdreams talk 05:41, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Their scan is indeed of the 2003 edition, as can be seen by reference to an an encyclopedia published in 2002. They use the term "Nihilartikel" in reference to the apopudobalia entry, and the German Wikipedia article did indeed mention "apopudobalia" (and would probably have been a top google search for that term) a couple of months before the book was published, so I wouldn't say it's entirely implausible.--Pharos (talk) 19:10, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Motivations for creation[edit]

In the article for Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, it's implied (but not explicitly stated, let alone sourced) that the fictitious entries may have been added for more money, as the writers were paid by the word. If somebody can find a citation for this, it would be a good inclusion in the motivations for creation section, which does not address the issue. Rigadoun (talk) 19:44, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Is the following applicable?[edit]

A couple years ago, Marvel and DC comics combined their characters in a project called 'Amalgam'. For example, Batman and Wolverine became Dark Claw. In these comicss were letters, as if they were letters written by fans about past (non-existent) issues of Dark Claw (or whatever Amalgam issue in question was). The letters, in short, were written by Marvel and DC employees. Does this count for this article? Lots42 (talk) 23:30, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Interesting as it is, I don't think it belongs - it's "fictitious", where factual/real was to be expected, but it is not an "entry" in the sense of this article, as it is not in a reference work.--Noe (talk) 11:26, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Feist vs Rural[edit]

The article cites Feist vs Rural as proof that fictitious entries like trap streets/phony phone book entries aren't sufficient as proof of copyright infringement in the US; however, simple perusal of the wikipedia page on Feist v Rural says that the ruling was based on the uncopyrightable nature of noncreative lists of information, not that there was no proof they had copied; should this be clarified? (talk) 14:45, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

In reading these two entries, I also found that Feist v. Rural does not really seem to fit. The ruling has been misinterpreted in this article. It also seems that the ruling in the Fred Worth lawsuit was similarly misinterpreted. In both cases, the subject matter was ruled to not be copyrightable. Had the subject matter been copyrightable, it is possible (AFAIK) that the fictitious entries within those works would have been sufficient evidence. The third and final cited case, that of Nester's Map & Guide Corp. v. Hagstrom Map Company, does not concern fictitious entries at all. See U.S. Map Copyright Litigation (the summary for Nester's v. Hagstrom is about 5/6ths of the way down the page).
Because of this, I have removed all three links from the article. Since the bit about fictitious entries not being valid evidence for copyright infringement under US law is unsupported after removing the links, I have also removed that assertion. If the assertion is indeed true, then I hope that someone with more legal knowledge than I will be able to supply some actual court decisions that are relevant to the issue. (talk) 05:51, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
Surely they are protected by copyright, since Feist referred to collections of facts, whereas a Nihilartikel is by definition not factual but a creative work. (talk) 13:31, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Stanislaw Lem[edit]

Stanislaw Lem's book A Perfect Vacuum (a collection of nihil-book reviews) might deserve a mention in the article. (talk) 01:21, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Missing citations?[edit]

So OK, last night I added a couple of examples and today they were deleted in the course of a larger cleanup. Part of that cleanup was to add the notes about not having references and about possible original research.

The two examples I added were:

1) A file sitting in a directory whose URL I linked to. The link takes you to a plain directory listing; there is no index.html page to block this. The directory listing itself verifies the file name and date that I gave. The file itself verifies the rest of what I said. So I'm not clear on what is either original or unverifiable in my calling attention to it. I do think the Unicode standard is a pretty important reference work, so am perplexed by this one's removal.

2) A two- or three-line entry in a reference book. Here, I linked to the Wikipedia article about the book, but I did not actually footnote the page number, not having a copy of the book handy. Is this what would be wanted? In any event, I can see that this one may merit exclusion - it amounts to an in-joke rather than a bona fide fictitious entry. (Though to be fair I also note that the lead-off reference to the <Neue Pauly>'s fictitious sport was caught in reviews more or less on publication; see for example <>.) And although having written about 1% of <The Encyclopedia of Fantasy> I'd like to claim that it and the SF book are major reference works, I do know better.

Anyway. I'd appreciate an explanation re the Unicode example. And given that people are sent to the talk page for clarification of the tags added, maybe there should be some clarification.

Joe Bernstein (talk) 05:08, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Joe, The required citations must come from secondary sources: the examples must be notable enough to be discussed by someone else in published works. Wikipedia is not a catalog of all possible everything. Examples are not an exhaustive list: they serve to illustrate the topic. And the best illustration is a notable illustration. - Altenmann >t 18:17, 14 September 2009 (UTC)
Altenmann has just reverted my re-insertion of the Æblerød bit, that has been in the article unchallenged for a long time. Of course, THAT is not a significant argument, but I think this bit meets Altenmann criteria for inclusion. Unlike most vandalism in Wikipedia, it is clearly meant as a "fictitious entry", and it illustrates the concept in a different way from all the other examples. I originally introduced this bit - though others contributed. I always thought that a similar story in a less obscure corner of wikipedia with English sources would be even better, but to ignore the world's largest encyclopedia here strikes me as odd.--Noe (talk) 06:57, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
It wasn't a fictious entry; it was a hoax and vandalism. I can't find any sources that recognise it as a "fictitous entry" as defined in this article. Per WP:DENY we don't include it. Fences&Windows 00:27, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
I've just re-read Fictitious entry from the top, and I have to disagree: Æblerød was a fictitious entry. What "definition" do you see that contradicts this? But you are right, the sources do not explicitly identify it as a "fictitious entry" - and that, I believe, is true of nearly all the samples in the article. So, arguably, the whole thing is a "novel synthesis", "original research", or some other such bad thing.--Noe (talk) 11:23, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
I found the Betty Boop character in Unicode myself, which I suppose makes that original research (though a simple search on 'Unicode "Betty Boop" ' produces 2610 alleged results in Google, and I may reinsert the example if I decide to see if one is a reasonable source).
But I only learnt of the bogus entry for E. E. Smith in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction from the review in The New York Review of Science Fiction. According to an index offered at NYRSF's website, the SFE was reviewed in issue 61, September 1993. Presumably this isn't enough, since I lack a page reference (and don't own that issue), my memory may be wrong after over 15 years (I would have read that review probably in 1994), and ANYWAY there's still the question whether what's really a joke entry rather than a copyright-protection one, in a not-very-prominent reference book, is "notable" enough to cite. Whatever.
Should someone clearer on Wikipedia policies than I am be interested in re-inserting it. The book has a long entry headed "E. E. Smith" on the author whose Lensman and Skylark series more or less defined the subgenre of space opera. Both this article and Wikipedia's refer to a series by Gordon Eklund, based on a Smith story and published at least partly (I don't think I've seen all the volumes) as if written or co-written by Smith, years after his death. SO. The SFE article on the real Smith is immediately followed by an entry of two or three lines, again titled "E. E. Smith", this time saying (approximate quote) "the real name of the author who for understandable reasons publishes pseudonymously, as Gordon Eklund". I can provide the exact quote and page reference to the SFE within a few days if wanted. --Joe Bernstein <> (talk) 17:23, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

Time to restore the article's legitimate name[edit]

As can be seen above, I've advocated returning this article to its original title, Nihilartikel. The reason it was moved was that many believed the word to be a neologism invented by the author of the German Wikipedia article of that name in September of 2003. As noted earlier on this talk page, we only had one definitive use of this word earlier than September 2003, in an email on a German list-serv that noted "Nihilartikel" as the technical term for articles of this nature. As you can see, I thought that use was sufficient to show we didn't invent the word, but others disagreed.

Well, I have gotten in contact with the man who used Nihilartikel on that list-serv in January of 2003, Uwe Bartels, who still works at the University of Hildesheim. He is a very gracious fellow, as he was willing to do some work to find one of the sources where he had seen the word prior to January of 2003 -- he assures me (and I believe him) that he didn't invent the word, as at least one person had alleged here. He just wrote to me, offering the following information:

a colleague of me was able to send me the text of the mentioned article. It was published in the year 2000 and the author has used the term "Nihilartikel" twice in this article.
Find the passages below:
Berliner Morgenpost, Jg. 102, 16.07.2000, Nr. 0, S. 5
Katharina Hein
Der Orthodidakt
Insider mutmaßen, dass jedes Lexikon im Fachjargon "Nihilartikel" genannte Stichwörter enthält. Manche wurden von den Herausgebern mehr oder weniger zähneknirschend genehmigt, andere gezielt an den Verantwortlichen vorbei geschmuggelt.
Von den Herausgebern unbemerkt gelangte das Stichwort "Apopudobalia" in den ersten Band des "Kleinen Pauly" - und erzeugte gehörigen Wirbel. Doch das positive Echo in der Presse und die kostenlose Werbung für das Nachschlagewerk stimmten die Verantwortlichen beim Metzler-Verlag schließlich milde. Sie machten gute Miene zum gar nicht so bösen Spiel und ließen verlauten, ein "Nihilartikel" gehöre schon aus guter Tradition in jedes renommierte Lexikon.
Uwe Bartels

I regard this as sufficient evidence of the word's legitimacy to restore this article to the title it once had, especially as "fictitious entry" is a poor descriptor of the specific thing being described here (and it's a phrase I've never seen used in this context outside of Wikipedia). Can I get some input, and hopefully consensus, regarding whether or not we can move the page back? Jwrosenzweig (talk) 07:57, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

Poor, maybe, but what you are advocating is far worse. Lots42 (talk) 09:08, 30 October 2009 (UTC) let's talk. Why do you feel that way? Jwrosenzweig (talk) 23:18, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
The Google footprint of "fictitious entry" strongly suggests this article is the overwhelming source for its use. If "Nihilartikel" is the precise non-original term and has been in use for almost a decade as the above proposes, then the article should of course be at that title.  Skomorokh, barbarian  23:37, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
"Copyright trap" was used in 1992 for this kind of thing in maps:[5] Fences&Windows 01:46, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
That's true, and perhaps the article should more clearly note that. But we can't claim that most of these Nihilartikels have any copyright purpose, if you look at the list. I don't think I would support using "Copyright trap" as the title for this article. Jwrosenzweig (talk) 01:53, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
I firmly believe this should stay at fictitious entry rather than change (back) to Nihilartikel, for one very simple reason (other than the footprint of the current name). 'Nihilartikel' is not English, yet this is the English-language WP. In the German-language WP then 'Nihilartikel' is clearly correct, but not - by definition - here. Moving for the same of moving is wrong. --AlisonW (talk) 02:03, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
But Alison, this isn't moving for the sake of moving. We already know that the English-language Wikipedia will have articles on topics for which no English word or phrase exists. Elan vital, for example. We could call that article vital force or some other English translation, but that's not really what the concept is. Does elan vital refer only to French things? No, certainly not...not according to Bergson, at least. But because the concept is captured by a French phrase and no reasonable English substitute presents itself, we have an article title in French at the English Wikipedia. As Skomorokh notes, we're the only organization I can identify that uses "Fictitious entry" to denote the concept this article describes. It may be an understandable English phrase (as "vital force" would be) but it simply isn't used for this. Whereas Nihilartikel has a provenance, it exists independent of Wikipedia (and did for a number of years before we ever printed it, either here or at the German Wikipedia), and it is even used in print now by publishers in English, according to Google Books (there are one or two hits, at least). I think the example of elan vital (and dozens more like it) support us using a technical and accurate term from another language over an English phrase that a Wikipedian invented for the topic. Jwrosenzweig (talk) 02:13, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
As is becoming strangely typical on this talk page, I have presented evidence and what I consider to be good reasoning in favor of moving this page. In response I get immovable objections but absolutely no dialogue from those who disagree. I can't see that anyone disputes the following facts:
  • That the term "Nihilartikel" was not (as was alleged) invented by a German Wikipedian
  • That "Nihilartikel" is, in fact, a word that's been used in print for at least a decade describing the items described in this article
  • That no English word currently exists that describes these items accurately
  • That the use of "fictitious entry" is, far from being a neutral placeholder, an term invented by Wikipedians (and used only by us and those who imitate/adopt that usage from us)
If the above is true (and if it is not, won't someone please have a dialogue with me about why not, and what your reasons are?), I fail to see why the article is not moved back to its original title. I'm sorry to be cranky about this, but after spending years substantiating my claims, I feel as though no one is willing to listen anymore. Isn't Wikipedia still a place where we work together to solve problems like this? Jwrosenzweig (talk) 22:28, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
A list server is not a reliable source. Reliable sources are things like books, magazines, papers. An alleged quote from a letter is not a reliable source either; what you are claiming is not verifiable.- Wolfkeeper 22:51, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Okay! So, we have a chance to talk. I fail to understand how a list-server for an academic audience isn't a reliable source about the use of a technical term in that trade. If I was establishing the origins of an obscure medical term, would you refuse to accept something from an AMA list-server? If so, do you mind pointing me to the Wikipedia policy page establishing this? If there is one, I'll certainly have to yield on that point.
But I don't know that you read my post carefully enough. I have an email, yes, but the email quotes from an article that is explicitly cited--the name of the periodical, the issue, the author, are all there. Although I can produce the email if that's desired, I'm not asking that you take his word for something. I'm citing a print source. When someone cites a book on Wikipedia (as they often do), we don't demand that they show us the book -- not unless what's being claimed seems preposterous. I (on the basis of advice from a German academic) am saying that this word appeared in the Berliner Morgenpost on July 16, 2000. Do you have reason to dispute that claim? If you dispute that claim, how am I to prove to you I am correct? I've already supplied the quotation. I could mail you a photocopy, I suppose, but how many Wikipedians must I send copies to? I hope you see my predicament. So, how ought we to resolve this matter? Thank you for your swift reply, Jwrosenzweig (talk) 23:38, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The 2000 print citation (also referred to at the worldwidewords page) is clearly sufficient for updating the reference in the 1st paragraph of this article (and the etymology at wikt:nihilartikel, if you'd be so kind :). I don't think it's sufficiently weighty to warrant moving this article to that name, though. I first watchlisted this article when it was at that title (after tangenting from trap street), but it's clearly not the original or earliest name, for this phenomenon. (currently "Mountweazel" (1975)?). It might be the most common term, but that would need further evidence.
Wikipedia:Article titles gives copious advice on how to decide. I need more coffee. -- Quiddity (talk) 17:50, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Quiddity, thanks for your response. I think I disagree with you, but I do understand your point. Is Mountweazel an actual word, though? I mean, is it used by academics/reference librarians? If so, it certainly has the advantage of time on its side, and I'd support a move to that name. The advantage of Nihilartikel as a term for this is that it, to all appearances, really is used (if rarely) by people who specialize in the area of reference works. Hmmmm. Well, yours is certainly the best response I've seen yet, and has given me much to think about. I'll muse some more on this, and hope for additional opinions (from you or others) regarding where this article should land. "Fictitious entry" just strikes me as absurd, given that it's a phrase we devised -- it would be far better to give preference to whatever word/phrase has the best provenance, in my opinion. Jwrosenzweig (talk) 00:03, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Re support for Mountweazel: This says: "The term mountweazel is sometimes used to refer to these mischievous entries inserted in reference books." Also, This might contain something if anyone can obtain a copy.
Aside from that, every potential reference that I can find with a few brief searches, is referring back to either the NewYorker article or the Worldwidewords pages. -- Quiddity (talk) 01:27, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

The proposal makes no sense. The concept exists in many languages, apparently only German has a word for it. (The most likely reason seems to be that once a German dictionary or encyclopedia introduced it in the same way that it is being used here.) That doesn't mean that we now have to use it, unless it's actually used by a significant number of reliable sources in English. This is even more true since the German word isn't particularly well known among German speakers. To put it mildly. The German Wikipedia has put the corresponding article under de:Fingierter Lexikonartikel (faked dictionary entry) and says synonyms are Nihilartikel and U-Boot (submarine).

When there is no single, established word that describes the topic of an article, then we simply use a description. I don't see why we shouldn't do it in this case. Hans Adler 18:38, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Hans, I'm not sure why it "makes no sense" to you. You say "the concept exists in many languages, apparently only German has a word for it". But that's exactly my point. If you agree to that statement, you ought to agree to the title's being Nihilartikel, just as we have an article on Élan vital. We don't translate that French phrase into English, even though we easily could, simply because in doing so we'd be inventing an English neologism for a concept that has an existing term in French. If an English phrase for elan vital ever supersedes it, maybe the Wikipedia article will move. But not until then, I hope.
I certainly agree that "Nihilartikel" is not widespread in use among German speakers. Synecdoche isn't in much use by English speakers either, though -- I'm not convinced that limited usage is a real drawback when we're talking about a specialized word for a very obscure topic. I understand your saying that we use a description when there is no established word....but I'm contending we do have an established word. Again, "synecdoche" (or pick any other obscure term from any discipline you like) could easily end up an article titled Calling something by one of its parts or some other approximation. But we don't -- we use a Greek word that is probably not very familiar even to speakers of Greek. Can you help me understand why this particular topic should be treated any differently? I'm open to hearing a good defense of it: honestly, I am. But I feel as though most of the arguments I encounter boil down to people not liking "Nihilartikel" as a word very much. If that's not your feeling, then help me understand your point -- thanks! Jwrosenzweig (talk) 00:03, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

The cited newspaper article is from the Berliner Morgenpost which is a yellow press newspaper - hardly a reliable source. And even if there was a reliable source for the use of the word "Nihilarticle" before that Katharina Hein article, it would only be relevant for the German Wikipedia. It is not up to us to invent new English neologisms by borrowing terms from a random other language. Please prove that the term was in use in the English language before the Wikipedia article according to reliable (English) sources. Cacycle (talk) 18:28, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

Wiki hoaxes?[edit]

It's been debated above (see #Nihilartikels in Wikipedia, #Toalettpapir, #Is "The Camel" really a defeat for Wikipedia?, #This article might be a hoax, #Æblerød in en:wikipedia, #Nihilartikel update):

  1. Is a hoax in Wikipedia a nihilarticle? (I think yes! Read the lead of the article; it fits perfectly. Many nihilarticles (if not all) are hoaxes; the motivations vary.)
  2. Would mentioning it in this aritcle be an improper selfreference? (I think not! But it requires an external source.)
  3. May not mentioning any such cases at all be seen as biased? (I think so! If we're the largest and best reference work in the World, and we have nihilarticles, giving many examples but none from wikipedia looks really odd!)

Here's a recent good candidate for inclusion: Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2010-03-08/News and notes#DYK featured fake BLP. The only external reference seems to be a blog on wikipedia, which makes it not so strong a candidate.-- (talk) 10:14, 22 March 2010 (UTC)


How about a reference to "Tlon, Ukbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges? The entire story deals with the discovery of a presumably fictitious encyclopedia entry. I also recommend it to anyone who was interested in this page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:29, 17 April 2010 (UTC)

Fake entries "not effective for copyright purpose"[edit]

The articles states that the inclusion of fake entries "is not effective for copyright purposes in the US". That is incorrect. Fake entries are used to prove that copying has taken place. The claimants in cases cited failed because although they proved (or would have proved) that the defendant had copied, were simply not protected (because US copyright does not protect unoriginal databases). I suggest someone corrects this. (talk) 01:37, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

The article doesn't say that fake entries are not effective. It only says that trap streets and invented telephone numbers are not effective. It would be nice if we could add that fictitious entries in dictionaries or encyclopedias are effective, but we would need a source for that, given that someone might completely rewrite a fictitious encyclopedia article giving essentially the same information. This would have to be tested in court. Hans Adler 09:18, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

The question that remains to be asked[edit]

Over the years, Wikipedians have gone through the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica so thoroughly for material to use in building the encyclopedia, that if it were a mountain set upon by strip-miners, it would be a hole in the ground. So in this thorough mining, were any nihilartikels/fictitious entries encountered? If none were, based on this article that would make the 1911 EB very unusual. -- llywrch (talk) 20:29, 9 September 2010 (UTC)

Reflipe W. Thanuz[edit]

In the 1890's, one New York city newspaper supposedly proved that another New York newspaper was plagiarizing its obituaries by publishing a phoney obituary for Reflipe W. Thanuz -- a quasi-anagram of We Pilfer "the news"[6] ... AnonMoos (talk) 12:14, 24 March 2011 (UTC)


I suppose the google bing affair does qualify. Google added fake keywords that pointed to search results and bing copied 9 out of 100 [7] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:19, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

Oxford Companion to English Literature[edit]

I remember hearing Margaret Drabble interviewed, some years ago, probably on BBC Radio 4, about the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. Margaret Drabble was being interviewed because she was the editor of this latest edition. I was taken aback to hear her say that the OCEL contained a fictitious entry, to combat plagiarism. My immediate thought was, "How can you trust a reference work which contains a false entry?"Rvam1378 (talk) 12:46, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

Fictitious entries on maps[edit]

The section begins:

Fictitious entries on maps may be called phantom settlements, trap streets, paper towns, cartographer's follies, or other names. They are intended to serve as traps for identifying copyright infringements[clarification needed].

But the section that follows doesn't back that up. The fictitious entities Goblu and Beatosu and Mount Richard are jokes, not copyright traps. The last paragraph explains that copyright traps are _not_ fictitious entities or other deliberate mistakes, but only stylistic fingerprints. Only one of the entries, Agloe, actually is a fictitious entity intended as a copyright trap, and of course that one ended up being non-fictitious. -- (talk) 05:16, 11 February 2014 (UTC)