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PHONY/PHONEY

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PHONY/PHONEY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:44 pm

• phony •

Pronunciation: fo-nee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Fake, not genuine, counterfeit. 2. (Noun) A fake or counterfeit object, a sham. 3. (Noun) A person pretending to be someone he or she is not.

Notes: J. D. Salinger legitimized today's Good Word in his novel, Catcher in the Rye. Before this novel, phony was just another slang term for "fake". For a while it was spelled phoney, a spelling that is still favored in the UK. It has a full lexical family, including an adverb, phonily (don't forget to change the Y to I), comparatives, phonier and phoniest, and a regular noun, phoniness. Although basically an adjective, like many adjectives (empty, red, republican), it may be used transparently as a noun with the meanings above.

In Play: This word is quite common today; we chose it mostly because of its history (see below). It has been used so long in reference to counterfeit money that a slip-of-the-tongue error associated with it has become common, too: funny money: "Why do you think this $3 bill is phony (funny)?" Because it accidentally looks and sounds like the Greek root phon(e), there is lots of room to play with this word: "I can't eat dinner without some telephony interrupting me with a free offer that would end up costing me a hundred bucks or more."

Word History: Phony has nothing to do with telephones or any other kind of sound or sound device. This word arose from a confidence game played by British swindlers of old called the "fawney ring". In this scam, one conspirator drops a gilded brass (phony gold) ring on the sidewalk. An accomplice picks it up in front of the victim. The ring is then sold to the victim for less than its ostensible value, but far more than the real value. Why fawney? That is simply the British pronunciation of the Irish word for ring: fáinne. Fawney became phoney then phony in the US, whence it reentered England with its new meaning. (Our gratitude to Mark Bailey for suggesting today's word is quite genuine and not the least bit phony.)
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Re: PHONY/PHONEY

Postby Slava » Tue Jun 11, 2013 6:11 pm

Whenever I come across the word telephony, I think of this. So much that comes over the phone these days is fake that it seems to fit.
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Re: PHONY/PHONEY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:45 pm

Touché.
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Re: PHONY/PHONEY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:16 pm

Telephony is also used seriously in the computer industry. I've mostly seen it in reference to using the computer for a phone, or even for voice interaction like Siri.
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