Phony vs. phoney

Phony is the American spelling of the word meaning (1) not real, (2) not genuine, and (3) a false or inauthentic person or thing. In British English, Australian English, and other English varieties from outside North America, phoney is the preferred spelling. Canadian writers use both, though phony is more common.

In British writing, phoney war is a common phrase referring to either a period of inaction between two wars or a tense period of conflict not involving actual fighting. It was initially used to describe the period between the start of the Second World War and the Battle of France (i.e., roughly between September 1939 and April 1940) when there seemed to be surprisingly few hostile engagements between the Western Allies and Nazi Germany.

Examples

U.S.

That is in addition to an $8.7 billion pot recovered by Mr. Picard from people who took profits from phony investments. [Wall Street Journal]

It must really be exhausting being a phony. [Chicago Tribune]

Perry is making a phony claim. [Washington Post's Fact Checker blog]

Outside the U.S.

But I think it is time we called a truce to the phoney war that exists between directors and actors. [Guardian]

Victorians affected by the Christmas Day hailstorms have been told to beware of phoney insurance representatives calling to inspect their homes. [The Age]

A sincere, impatient and humble man, he detested the pomposity, superficiality and phoney intimacy of politics. [Economist]

Reference

1. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/142639 (subscription required) ^

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