Mountweazel (words)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

getty_mountweazel-92116578.jpg
Could this be a picture of Lillian Virginia Mountweazel?. (Garron Nicholls/Getty Images)

Definition

A Mountweazel is a bogus entry deliberately inserted in a reference work, usually as a safeguard against copyright infringement

The source of the term is the fictitious Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a bogus entry in the fourth edition of The New Columbia Encyclopedia [NCE] (1975).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

    Examples and Observations

    • "The 'Mountweazel' entry in the NCE was supposedly slipped in as a control against copyright infringers, though it is hard to imagine that anyone who troubled to read the entry would not have spotted it as completely fanciful:
      Mountweazel, Lillian Virginia, 1942-1973, American photographer, b. Bangs, Ohio. Turning from fountain design to photography in 1963, Mountweazel produced her celebrated portraits of the South Sierra Miwok in 1964. She was awarded government grants to make a series of photo-essays of unusual subject matter, including New York City buses, the cemeteries of Paris, and rural American mailboxes. The last group was exhibited extensively abroad and published as Flags Up! (1972). Mountweazel died at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.
      While an Internet search reveals that there actually is a Bangs, Ohio (it's in Knox County), citing it as the birthplace of someone blown to bits might have been a tipoff that someone was pulling the reader's leg."
      (Alexander Humez, Nicholas Humez, and Rob Flynn, Short Cuts: A Guide to Oaths, Ring Tones, Ransom Notes, Famous Last Words, & Other Forms of Minimalist Communication. Oxford Univ. Press, 2010)
       
    • "The New Yorker's 'Talk of the Town' reported on an 'independent investigator' who found a copyright trap in The New Oxford American Dictionary. The dictionary's current editor, Erin McKean, confirmed that esquivalience was the invention of NOAD's Christine Lindberg and was included in the dictionary to spot copycats. 'Talk' reported that Dictionary.com had indeed included the word in its database (it has since been removed). The column features a short introduction to these copyright traps, which it calls mountweazels . . .."
      (Bryan A. Garner, Garner on Language and Writing. American Bar Association, 2009)
       
    • Esquivalience
      "The word [esquivalience] has since been spotted on Dictionary.com, which cites Webster’s New Millennium as its source. 'It’s interesting for us that we can see their methodology,' [Erin] McKean said. 'Or lack thereof. It’s like tagging and releasing giant turtles.'

      "As for esquivalience's excesses, McKean made no apologies. 'Its inherent fakeitude is fairly obvious,' she said. 'We wanted something highly improbable. We were trying to make a word that could not arise in nature.' Indeed, esquivalience, like Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, is something of a maverick. 'There shouldn’t be an "l" in there. It should be esquivarience,' McKean conceded. 'But that sounds like it would mean "slight differences between racehorses."'"
      (Henry Alford, "Not a Word." The New Yorker, August 29, 2005)
       
    • Mountweazel in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
      "Esrum-Hellerup, Dag Henrik (b Århus, 19 July 1803, d Graested, 8 Sept 1891). Danish flautist, conductor and composer. His father Johann Henrik (1773-1843) served in the Schwerin court orchestra before becoming chamber flautist to King Christian IX; he was subsequently honoured as Hofkammermusicus. Dag Henrik studied with his father and with Kuhlau and rapidly acquired a reputation as an accomplished flautist. His rise to fame in the 1850s was as rapid as his decline into obscurity; his opera Alys og Elvertøj (now lost) was much admired by Smetana, who is said to have conducted a performance during his time in Göteborg. Besides being a keen folksong collector (he made many folksong arrangements), Esrum-Hellerup also championed his Scandinavian contemporaries Hägg, Almquist, Berwald and others, and in later years Wagner and Draeseke; he planned performances of Parsifal in both Esbjerg and Göteborg but died before accomplishing this. Some flute quartets showing the influence of Kuhlau are among his few surviving works. He published a translation of Quantz’s treatise and a two-volume set of memoirs (Musikaliske intryck, Copenhagen, 1883-6).
      BIBLIOGRAPHY
      A. Pirro: Esrum-Hellerup: sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1909)
      ROBERT LAYTON"
      (New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, first printing, 1980; quoted by Anna-Lise Santella, "A Grove Music Mountweazel." OUPblog, January 25, 2013)

      Pronunciation: MOWNT-wee-zel