Mountweazel is a rather delightful word describing the practice of inserting fictitious entries into works of reference to catch anybody plagiarizing them. Examples include esquivalience ("an avoidance of responsibilities") in the New Pauly encyclopedia, prothesize ("place before") in several Merriam Webster dictionaries, jungftak (a type of Persian bird) in the New Oxford American Dictionary, and various fake "paper towns" on maps. All these entries exist to serve as copyright traps that prove that someone is stealing the work. The term mountweazel is named after Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a fake person listed on page 1,850 of the 1975 edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary as being an American photographer who died in an explosion. Since its first attestation, usage of mountweazel rapidly increased around the turn of the twenty-first century, peaking in 2010.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.