My Favoritest New Word: “Deepfake”

My Favoritest New Word: “Deepfake”

Merriam-Websters states that they have recently added 535 new words to their dictionary. That is a large list and proves the English language is alive and well. I enjoy etymology, and I find myself frequently looking at entries in the Urban Dictionary with amazement. I find it fascinating how new words are just popping out of the ether and into the common vernacular and lexicon. After scanning the Merriam-Websters entries, I did not have to search long before I found a new word that I like immensely: deepfake.

I am a computer programmer (has been) and I like the lingo and jargon of techspeak. Back in the day there were words like phreak, phish, peek and poke that just pleased me to no end. I also get a kick out of anything with “giga” as a prefix, such as gigawatt, as expressed in astonishment by the Professor Dr. Emmett Brown in the movie Back to the Future (“one point twenty-one gigawatts”) when pondering the power source for the flux capacitor. Suffice it to say, when it comes to geekspeek I am all ears and love to see it proliferate into everyday conversation. So, a word like deepfake is real enough for me to believe in and stand behind. I am going to adopt it and place it neatly in my lexicon after today.

The etymology of the word deepfake is a “blend of deep learning + fake” (Wictionary). It was first used around 2018, and is defined as “an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said” (Merriam-Websters). With the examples included on the website, the usage of this word seems to be common English, utilized by government officials such as Robert Mueller (possibly even President Donald Trump likes this one), and reporters for the Washington Post, such as Drew Harwell, and it is good enough for Websters as well, so it appears to be acceptable as a word to use in the formal register.

I find it intriguing that the idea of “fake” anything on the TV or Internet is a pitfall we must encounter on a daily basis, right down to annoying commercials and billboards on the roadway. It currently brings to mind the rhetoric of “fake news” and how the populace can be faked into believing just about anything by clever propaganda put out by the mainstream media, YouTube aficionados, and spear phishers on the dark web intending to perpetrate a fraud. The formation of this word was inevitable because it describes precisely what happens (deep + fake + [news?]) when we are deeply faked out by deception with new forms of technology for presentations and dissemination of information. Who and what will we believe in this age of multimedia, social networking, photoshopping, and deceptive trickery? What made this word (deepfake) form? It seems fairly obvious. It starts with a deeply thought out ploy, cleverly disguised as truth, but it is fake. One must nibble at these superficial newsbites and headline decoys cautiously or risk getting caught like a gullible fish in the network of lies and deception spattered across the media.

With all of this in mind, I am now enamored with the word “deepfake” because it is tangible. It is what we have to avoid in hopes of finding the truthiness when looking at the forest in search of the trees. Is any of it really real? When I see videos purporting to be factual and truthful about some celebrity or private individual that has been caught doing something naughty, can I really take it as genuine and valid? Or, should I reconsider, and search deeper to discover if it might indeed be a deepfake. What if our entire life experience is like the Matrix and everything, our very existence as we know it (like The Truman Show), is really just a deepfake? Who are these hoaxers? Why do they do it? Are we all just dupes to be faked out deeply? The possibilities are mind-blowing with hellacious implications for the future of mankind. Always beware of the deepfake. I will leave you with this old chestnut: caveat emptor.

Works Cited

Merriam-Websters. Definition Of DEEPFAKE. Accessed 25 June 2020.

Merriam-Websters. We Added New Words To The Dictionary For April 2020. Accessed 25 June 2020.

Wiktionary. Deepfake Accessed 25 June 2020.less

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