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Faux

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  • In English, the loanword faux has the same meaning it has in French: artificial, or just fake. The word has been in English for several centuries, it was once used only to describe imitation products such as faux pearls or faux leather. During the last few decades, however, faux has burst from this confinement and is now used as a synonym of fake in all sorts of contexts. Its use is often not strictly justified, especially where reliable English words like fake or false would work just as well, but people like the sound of it, and it perhaps has slightly less negative connotions than its main synonyms.

    Examples

    Faux is sometimes treated as a prefix—for example:

    [T]he little-known faux-documentary has attracted new generations of fans as it has aged. [Wall Street Journal]

    The NYT’s resident faux-conservative David L Brooks labours under similar misapprehensions about the Cameron administration. [Telegraph]

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    In such cases (where faux precedes a noun), the hyphen is unnecessary. Like its synonyms fake and false, faux works perfectly well as a standalone adjective—for example:

    There are few faux meadows or fake lakes in this new downtown terrain. [Toronto Star]

    What this faux toughness does point to, however, is how determined and desperate Abbott is to blow a hole in the Government. [The Canberra Times]

    But a hyphen is appropriate when faux is part of a phrasal adjective preceding what it modifies—for example:

    They sound like squares on a Monopoly board devoted to Prince Charles’s contrived faux-Georgian village of Poundbury in Dorset. [Guardian]

    Hudson sang the ditty in her faux-operatic-soul style … [Montreal Gazette (article now offline)]

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