"fact" = notion or idea that has not been established as a fact or is not a fact

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Apr 30 00:27:57 UTC 2006

In other words, a "social fiction."

  But seriously, this meaning of "fact" is everywhere. Listen closely to people being interviewed on TV news.  They don't say

  *And that's a fact!

  meaning "It's not a fact." Things aren't that crazy yet. They say things like,

  A: "The moon is made of green cheese, so it must have been hard for the astronauts to walk on it."

  B: "Well, the fact that it's made of green cheese wouldn't matter because they wore special shoes."


Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
Subject: Re: "fact" = notion or idea that has not been established as a
fact or is not a fact

On 4/29/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> I may have reported this very common SOTA perversion of sense and
> logic before, but here's an example that's hard to weasel out of:
> 1998 Carolyn Nordstrom "Deadly Myths of Aggression," in _Aggressive
> Behavior_ XXIV 152: The people who inaugurate wars do not fight them,
> giving lie to the social fact that "wars explode."
> Note too the form "give lie to."
> Prof. Nordstrom holds a doctorate in anthropology from Berkeley.

And as such is undoubtedly referring to the Durkheimian notion of
"social fact". See:


--Ben Zimmer

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