Social Media Claim

"Newspaper” is not an acronym based on compass points and events

A Facebook post from September 19, 2019, claims the word "newspaper" is an acronym.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from September 19, 2019 by Hit106.9 Newcastle which features a post posing a question on the word newspaper and stating that it is an acronym.

The post reads: “How Old Were You When You Found Out That 'Newspaper' Stood For North East West South Past And Present Event Report?"

The post has been shared more than 150 times and attracted more than 300 comments and 200 reactions. The same meme has also been posted by other Australian users on Facebook.

Hit106.9 is a radio station based in the NSW city of Newcastle and has been broadcasting since March 1992. The station’s Facebook page has more than 193,000 likes.

The word "newspaper" first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1667.

The Analysis

The word ‘news’ dates back to the late 14th century and was derived from the French word nouvelles meaning “new things”, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. The word “paper”, the dictionary says, has its origins in Latin word papyrus, the plant used to make paper in ancient Egypt. The Latin is borrowed from the ancient Greek word papyros.

Associate Professor Robert Mailhammer of Western Sydney University, who holds a PhD in linguistics, referred AAP FactCheck to the entry for “newspaper” in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The OED lists the word as first appearing in 1667 with the meaning of “papers containing new information’ and then ‘printed publication”.

Prof Mailhammer told AAP FactCheck via email the OED “is the most authoritative source for this kind of information” and its definition “clearly demonstrates that - as far as we know - the word “newspaper” was created as a fully transparent composition of two nouns, i.e. the meaning of the word was clear from the meaning of its parts”.

He said the creation of the word “newspaper” was “not an abbreviation but the transportation of a meaning by putting two existing words together. This pretty much rules out that this Facebook user is correct”.

The Facebook post has also been debunked in other parts of the world by fact checking units Snopes, Politifact, Africa Check, Today I Found Out, Pedestrian and Metro News. A similar meme that has circulated on social media is that the word “news” is an acronym for “notable events, weather and sport” which was debunked by BuzzFeed News.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. There is no evidence that the word newspaper stands for “North East West South Past and Present Event Report”.

  • False - The primary claims of the Facebook posts are factually inaccurate.

First published September 20, 2019, 17:38 AEST