Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Faux Foe

I saw a header on CNBC yesterday that read, “ETFs: Friend or Faux?” How clever, thought I, wondering whether some inventive writer on that channel had coined the term. Curious, I used Google to check, and discovered 297,000 hits. Where have I been hiding?

Since faux is pronounced foe, it’s a neat play on words. It was used

  • as the title of a book by Heather Wagner (Friend or Faux: A Guide to Fussy Vegans, Crazy Cat Ladies, Creepy Clingers, Undercover Sluts, and Other Girls Who Will Quietly Destroy Your Life),
  • as the name of a pop punk band located in San Diego,
  • as the name of a 2009-2010 exhibit at the Rosenbach Museum (Friend or Faux: Imitation and Invention, from Innocent to Fraudulent),
  • as the title of a 2006 article in Acupuncture Today (Candida Allergy: Friend or Faux? by Kaleb Montgomery, DTCM),
  • as the theme of MTV’s season 5 of The Hills,
  • as the name of at least three custom painters who specialize in trompe l’oeil,
  • as the title of a 2003 article in Time Magazine and a 2002 article in The Los Angeles Times, and on and on.

The word faux shows up in a number of set phrases from the French:

  • faux bonhomme: a sly, shifty person who assumes an open and good-natured manner;
  • faux-bourdon: the undersong or refrain in a song;
  • faux-naïf: a person who pretends to be simple or unaffected and adopts a childish or naïve manner;
  • faux pas: a false step or slip;
  • faux-prude: a man who simulates prudishness.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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