Talk:Dihydrogen monoxide parody

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Wikipedia[edit]

Does the existence of this article make it less likely that the hoax can be perpetrated?Rathfelder (talk) 23:32, 19 March 2016 (UTC)

This hoax works because people don't know the chemical names for water. Someone who has to research dihydrogen monoxide has already been hoaxed.Abc03833 (talk) 00:23, 24 May 2016 (UTC)

Semantics[edit]

If something is true it is not a hoax. This is a meme or trend, or prank if malicious, but it's not a hoax. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 63.225.85.233 (talk) 06:59, 6 September 2016 (UTC)

It is a hoax in that it is meant to fool people. Mezigue (talk) 08:07, 6 September 2016 (UTC)
NOTE: Before considering a new title for this article, please see the archives. This topic has been discussed many, many times without reaching a consensus. (This is just one discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Dihydrogen_monoxide_hoax/Archive_3) - DavidWBrooks (talk) 11:16, 6 September 2016 (UTC)
Is it meant to fool anyone, or is it merely satire of the nature fallacy?Ordinary Person (talk) 06:31, 19 February 2017 (UTC)

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Suggestion for Title[edit]

After reviewing a good deal of the archived discussions on this page, I think there is a middle ground that addresses everyone's concerns. I would recommend we update the title to Dihydrogen Monoxide parody.

A hoax is undertaken for the purpose of a deception, usually as part of an attempt to defraud. Hoaxes generally involve attempting to pass of incorrect information as truthful to elicit an action beneficial to the fraudster.

There doesn't appear to be any such intent or relationship here.

Parodies on the other hand is an imitation of a style or format of an author or group for humorous effect. That seems much closer to what this article is describing. The intent of the various activities doesn't appear to be deception for personal benefit, but mocking of other groups for humorous effect.

Let me know if this makes sense or if I'm missing something.

Squatch347 (talk) 16:19, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

It's certainly close, but many of those involved in this joke-like thing over the years have used it as a way to make a point (people don't know science, etc.) by working to ensure that it is taken seriously. "Hoax" is marginally more accurate than "parody" I think. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 20:36, 26 August 2018 (UTC)
Interesting, that explanation is exactly why I think parody works more than hoax. They are attempting to mimic a broader style (activist pamphlet) to make a point. If we look at Gulliver's Travels, it is a parody on the common trend in England at the time for sailors to publish travel guides. Swift mimic's the style to prove a point that people are far too gullible about exciting claims of far away lands.
The example in this article is nearly identical. We have a broader trend of dire warnings to collect petition signatures that the authors or making fun of by use of satiric imitation to make a point that peoples' lack of familiarity with science allows them to be taken in.
The wiki parody article "is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation." Which I think matches what you are saying exactly. Something used to make a point.
Contrast that with a hoax "is a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment..." Which seems like a very different thing that what we both seem to understand this thing to be.
Squatch347 (talk) 11:00, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
Jonathan Swift didn't pretend that Gulliver's Travels was real - it was a parody. People sometimes pretend DHMO is real, so I'd say it's more often a hoax. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 12:54, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that is accurate. Swift didn't add a fiction disclaimer on his work (and categorizing works as fiction didn't really come till much later). Swift simply put it out there and let discerning readers decide. Compare that to these examples, where the video makers almost always start out the video explaining that Dihydrogen Monoxide isn't dangerous because it is just water.
Likewise, the falsehood that DHMO is dangerous isn't the key feature to their argument, its the subject of the parody. They are mocking those that are overwrought (in their opinion) about anything with a chemically sounding name. The point of the writing/petition is to satirize those people.
The key here (and in the definitions offered) is intent. Is the intent to deceive or to educate? I think we both agree it is the latter. The people who occasionally do this stunt don't do it to legitimately deceive people, but to educate people to be cautious about psuedoscience. The point of the endeavor isn't to get people to believe, legitimately, that Dihydrogen Monoxide is dangerous, right? Squatch347 (talk) 13:57, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
I'd say they're mocking people by fooling them - that is, hoaxing them. Fooling people is the whole idea, otherwise it's just a feeble joke. ( Compare it to the "dark-sucker theory", which is just a joke and doesn't try to fool people. http://www.ultimatecampresource.com/site/camp-activity/the-dark-sucker-theory.html) But I hope others chime in. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 14:01, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
Ha, I hadn't seen that before, thanks for passing it along. This seems to be slightly different though. In your initial response, you said they were using it to make a point about people not being very scientifically informed. I think you are spot on, the point of this joke thing is to make a point, not to convince people it is actually dangerous. Take a look at the youtube examples: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dihydrogen+monoxide
The first one is Penn and Teller, well known satirists. Each of the top five have specific references in them showing you it is actually water they are talking about and are, generally, pro-science related channels. It seems pretty clear the intent here is to educate rather than confuse. Squatch347 (talk) 14:13, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
I'll admit this actually looks like a good name change. The intent isn't to deceive, but educate or poke fun at, which puts it more in parody or satire territory than hoax. That's especially since this is exaggerating (if only slightly if at all) what you'll see others doing for relatively non-toxic chemicals. Stephen Colbert is a fairly good parallel example of such parody where his act wasn't really intended as a hoax. Kingofaces43 (talk) 20:19, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
If two people like the change and one doesn't, I'd say that's probably not enough of a push to alter an article name that has been accepted for so long. Anybody else have an opinion? - DavidWBrooks (talk) 12:31, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
Normally I would totally agree, except as we can see from the archives the title of the page has been contentious for quite a while. It would be great if we could get a couple more people in here, but if we don't I still think we can move forward with the change given the disucssion here, and see if that draws out more interest. Squatch347 (talk) 13:19, 30 August 2018 (UTC)

───────────────────────── Rather than trying to decide on our own what to title the article, we need to reflect what it's actually called by reliable sources. Until we do that, I'm not in favor of moving the article. - BilCat (talk) 17:36, 30 August 2018 (UTC)


Well, ironically, Wiki lists this article in the Parody Science category, so applying a consistent name seems reasonable.
The first example of this was in 1997 out of St. Louis Dispatch (https://stltoday.newspapers.com/image/141813513/) which specifically lists it as a parody. "One of the most famous spoofs is the work of Nathan Zohner, a student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho."
The contemporary WAPO article on it (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1997/10/21/dihydrogen-monoxide-unrecognized-killer/ee85631a-c426-42c4-bda7-ed63db993106/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.448d7713dcc8) describes it as a "tongue-in-cheek" which implies both humor and not ill the ill intent of a hoax. Related to David's point, it also was specifically for educating his classmates, which implies it isn't a hoax whose purpose is to deceive. This is also the link in the main article.
Squatch347 (talk) 18:49, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
It is also referred to as a parody in other sources as well even after a quick glance (highlighting is weird in that source, so go down a few lines). Kingofaces43 (talk) 19:14, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
I don't think counting sources will make the decision for us. Here's "hoax" in The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/mar/24/usa.worlddispatch) and Science magazine (http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2011/04/forging-head) and USA Today (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/02/florida-water-prank/2046639/). I think this is going to be a judgement call. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 19:40, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
Ok, in that instance, I think we have to maintain the hierarchy. Wiki lists it in the Parody Science category, it would make sense to keep that consistent. Squatch347 (talk) 20:06, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
How about you, BilCat - if you had to choose one way or the other, hoax or parody. do you have a preference? - DavidWBrooks (talk) 20:42, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
It's too early for that. I don't what the majority of reliable sources use yet. We don't even if know if "hoax" or "parody" are even the top choices yet. WP:CRITERIA sets out 5 criteria: Article titles should be recognizable, concise, natural, precise, and consistent. Yes, it's a judgment call, but an informed one based on these criteria. - BilCat (talk) 21:14, 30 August 2018 (UTC)

───────────────────────── Both "hoax" and "parody" follow those criteria equally well. The only other usage that I've found in any quantity is "prank", which also follows them. But counting results in Google searches isn't the way to do this - it's a judgement call among editors following informed discussion, as we're currently having. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 11:02, 31 August 2018 (UTC)

Why not just name the article "Dihydrogen monoxide"? It's recognizable, concise, natural, precise, consistent, and unambiguous, already redirects here, and doesn't require a judgment call at all. - BilCat (talk) 00:44, 1 September 2018 (UTC)
That would be appropriate if the substance "dihydrogen monoxide" were the subject of the article, except we already have an article at Water, so then Dihydrogen monoxide would be a redirect. The article is about the hoax/parody about the use of the term "dihydrogen monoxide" for "water" to either fool people (in which case it is a hoax) or to make a point (in which case it is a parody). And, the term is used both ways, so I haven't decided if I prefer "hoax" or "parody". - Donald Albury 09:59, 1 September 2018 (UTC)
It's a non-scientific/pseudo-scientific name that already redirects to this article. More than likely, any reader who hears the term "dihydrogen monoxide", and would type in that name. If it redirects to water, we're possibly misleading the reader into thinking that the term is a real scientific name for water. This article is what they need to be raeding. We can explain in the lead that's used as a paraody, hoax, satire et al. - BilCat (talk) 10:15, 1 September 2018 (UTC)
Since this article is about the hoax/parody/prank, not about the substance itself, many people (including me) think Dihydrogen monoxide alone would be misleading and not appropriate. The article name needs to indicate that this is a hoax/prank/parody/something. (If you check the archives you'll see this possibility has been much discussed. ) - DavidWBrooks (talk) 11:45, 1 September 2018 (UTC)
Water is not named "Dihydrogen monoxide" - it's a hoax/parody/prank/something name to begin with. But whatever. There's no consensus to move to this point, and not likely to be one. That's it's been "much discussed" in the past just goes to show this discussion isn't any different, and was probably just a big waste of time. - BilCat (talk) 00:11, 4 September 2018 (UTC)
And as to "Dihydrogen monoxide" being misleading, it still redirects here. I guess it's not that misleading after all. - BilCat (talk) 00:16, 4 September 2018 (UTC)
I still think we have to fall back on naming consistency. This article is part of a series called "Parody Science." Calling it a hoax in the title makes it inconsistent with its larger categorization. Not to mention the examples given don't technically meet the wiki definition for hoax, "is a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment..." These articles aren't necessarily "falsehoods" (though very misleading for sure), that's the point of the article in all instances, that if you leave a concept vague enough, and use pseudo-scientific nomenclature you can make anything concerning. The point of the example in every instance linked on the page is to mock or mimic groups that get very concerned about "artificial" products.
I'd happily consider leaving it as hoax if we could produce a single example of someone actually using the meme in line with our own definition of hoax. Squatch347 (talk) 13:23, 4 September 2018 (UTC)
Certainly many of the examples are in line with our own definition of hoax; they were definitely designed to fool people. However, I am coming around to your point of view because, as I see it, your argument is that the DHMO is always a parody, making fun of people or ways of thinking, but only sometimes is it also a hoax, designed to mislead them. Under that argument, which I think is accurate, "parody" would be a better title. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 13:42, 4 September 2018 (UTC)


Haha, you read my mind. I was thinking of something like that while writing the last response, but I don't think I expressed it very well. I like your explanation, parody is a higher category (or broader perhaps) that covers all incidents, while some might fit into a more narrow category of hoax which includes the intent to deceive. Squatch347 (talk) 17:46, 4 September 2018 (UTC)
I haven't been able to chime in for a bit, but this was more or less why I was opposed to having hoax as the title as parody can include that, but also includes more. While there has been a lot of discussion on this title, I don't think this specific conversation has been had before. It is likely a worthwhile change that though should be able to gain traction though like we're seeing here so far. Kingofaces43 (talk) 20:28, 4 September 2018 (UTC)


I think we are pretty close, I had a thought this morning. How about we change the title to parody, and then include some text in the intro paragraph noting that there are some examples (with citations) of this being used as an instructional parody and some examples (with citations) of this being used to decieve. Squatch347 (talk) 13:43, 10 September 2018 (UTC)

I think the existing text does that pretty well - "The hoax often calls for dihydrogen monoxide to be banned, regulated, and labeled as dangerous. It illustrates how a lack of scientific literacy and an exaggerated analysis can lead to misplaced fears." I won'd think we need examples in the introduction. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 14:40, 10 September 2018 (UTC)
Very fair point. I'll give another day or so to see if anyone else has thoughts and make the change tomorrow. Thanks for the disucssion everyone! Squatch347 (talk) 14:58, 10 September 2018 (UTC)

Didn't notice this thread until the move showed up on my watchlist. "Parody" seems awfully awkward to me. The obvious question I have, as a reader, is what is being parodied? We have an article on parody: "a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation." Is water being imitated, made fun of, or commented on? Is it being imitated in a satirical or ironic way? All of these seem to miss the point. Hoax isn't ideal either, as it's intended to mislead or sensationalize rather than to convince that something that is untrue is true.

Since it's unclear that there's a clearly articulated name in the sources beyond just "dihydrogen monoxide," I'd suggest just using a parenthetical disambiguator. I.e. it's not the "dihydrogen monoxide parody" or the "dihydrogen monoxide hoax" but just "dihydrogen monoxide (prank)". "Prank" seems like a perfectly accurate, simple descriptor that some of the sources mention and none contradict. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 17:47, 11 September 2018 (UTC)

Sorry you missed the discussion - "prank" was one of the options but nobody seemed excited by it. Wikipedia articles don't usually get moved more than once in succession; the idea is to let people get used to a new article name before making judgments about it. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 17:52, 11 September 2018 (UTC)
Typically when a title has been sharply contested in the past, a formal WP:RM is the way to go. Regardless, I'm not advocating it be moved back as the original name was not ideal either and the thread isn't actually concluded simply because someone has decided to be bold. Thoughts on a disambiguator rather than "parody" (which, although most choices are not ideal, is probably the worst of them IMO). — Rhododendrites talk \\ 18:13, 11 September 2018 (UTC)
No one really contested the move after two weeks of discussion, so I think it's fair to say consensus had been reached on the title at least since it ran its course and everyone agreed to the change at the time. RM might be appropriate if there was a lot more disagreement, but it looks like this thread was handled without needing more formal dispute resolution processes. Kingofaces43 (talk) 21:05, 11 September 2018 (UTC)
Rhododendrites, I agree that it isn't spelled out in the article what, exactly, is being parodied. The sources (and our earlier discussion) reference that the earliest versions are parodying scientific alarmism or activist pamphlets. I think a cleaner solution would be to add a small blurb in the opening paragraph detailing the genre being parodied. Thoughts? Squatch347 (talk) 18:45, 11 September 2018 (UTC)
I think we're way overthinking this. Nobody is going to be confused whether it's parody or hoax or prank or something else - it's been quite clear for years what the article is all about, so I'd say there's no need to tinker with the intro. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 23:35, 11 September 2018 (UTC)
"Prank" is significantly more accurate than "parody" or "hoax". Dihydrogen monoxide (prank) or Dihydrogen monoxide prank are superior titles in every way except for the fact that some people have reservations about looking at the word 'prank' in a title (doesn't roll of the tongue well? word sounds childish? these are preconceptions and offer little excuse). now wikipedia must wait 2 years before this discussion is brought up again because some mild consensus has already occurred.... aplogies for my formatting. i'm not mad just sad 138.9.8.254 (talk) 22:47, 12 September 2018 (UTC)
I agree with DavidWBrooks that we are probably way over thinking this at that point. I do agree with you that prank is better than hoax, but I don't think it is a more accurate than parody as it lacks the context of mimicking an existing genre. These emails/petitions/etc. make no real sense without the alarmist literature genre to compare them too. I think the consensus here of seeing them as progressively more rigid definitions within each other makes far more sense. Squatch347 (talk) 14:44, 13 September 2018 (UTC)

I'm doing a cleanup move to carry the archives along with the main talkpage. I'm neutral for now on the title. --SarekOfVulcan (talk) 17:18, 13 September 2018 (UTC)