Welcome to April Fools’ Day, which is what every day has felt like, to me at least, for the last few years. Every day another bit of trumpery (a word related etymologically to French tromper, to deceive). Every day another affront to denizens of the reality-based community, as Karl Rove infamously put it back in 2004.
It’s a good day, as days go, to consider hoax, a word that, appropriately enough, has no clear origins. It was documented first as a verb, in 1796, in Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (“to deceive or take in by inducing to believe an amusing or mischievous fabrication or fiction; to play upon the credulity of”), and a decade later as a noun, in the London publication Sporting Magazine (“a humorous or mischievous deception, usually taking the form of a fabrication of something fictitious or erroneous, told in such a manner as to impose upon the credulity of the victim”). The OED says hoax is “supposed to be a contraction of hocus,” which was a contraction of hocus-pocus, a mock-Latin phrase that originally referred to “a conjuror or juggler.” (Hocus is also partially responsible for hokey, which I wrote about in 2015.)