Back to Africa Check

No, ‘newspaper’ is not an acronym of ‘North, East, West, South, Past and Present Events Report’

A supposedly eye-opening moment is captured in an image posted on Facebook – of a woman in tears.

“Over 20 years of studying and only today I find out that the word ‘NEWSPAPER’ is the abbreviation of ‘North, East, West, South, Past and Present Events Report’. I honestly want all my school fees back,” reads the caption.

Is that true?

The word “news”, according to the Dictionary of English Etymology compiled by Hensleigh Wedgwood, likely comes the French word nouvelles – meaning “new things” – or the Danish word nys,  for “properly scent, hint, wind, inkling, intimation”.

And 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 (πάπυρος).

The Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms also traces “paper” to “papyrus”.

The origin of newspapers

Paper was invented in China, but the modern newspaper as we know it today is recorded as a European invention from the word gazette. It’s derived from the Italian word gazetta, which stood for “all manner of idle chattings or vain prattlings but now generally used for running reports, daily news, intelligences, and advertisements as are daily invented”.

Fact-checking site Snopes has debunked a similar claim about “news”. Snopes concluded that the claim was false not only because dictionaries said so, but also because a similar claim that “news” was an acronym for “Notable Events, Weather, and Sports” turned out to be wrong.

“The concept of ‘news’ was around (and was referred to as such) long before professional sports and reliable weather forecasting became mainstays of that industry (or even existed),” Snopes said. – Africa Check (28/01/19)


For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Further Reading

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters