Mountweazels

Modified mountain weasel

Today I discovered the wonderful word mountweazel today while listening to The Museum of Curiosity on BBC Radio 4. A mountweazel is a fake or fictitious entry added to a dictionary, encyclopaedia, map or other reference work as a kind of copyright trap – if such entries are found in copies, then its clear that they are copies.

The word mountweazel was coined by The New Yorker magazine and comes from a ficititous entry in the New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975 edition) for a Lilian Virginia Mountweazel. Another name for this is nihil article, which first appear in as Nihilartikel in the German version of Wikipedia.

On maps fictitious streets and place are inserted as copyright trap. The former are known as “trap streets” and the later “phantom settlements” or “paper towns”. One example is the non-existent town of Agloe in New York State.

More information about and examples of mountweazels

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