Hello and welcome to another week of fabulous fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question that was posed by an Alsworth using the initial J., and recommended to Factually Deficient’s attention by an individual known as Victin:
What are newspapers?
Back in the early days of public hangings, long before rope had been invented, criminals would be regularly hanged to death with twisted up scraps of paper. This was not particularly efficient, but it lent itself to merchandising the hanging by selling off the bits of paper afterward as mementoes.
However, in a fast-paced market economy, even the most devoted hanging aficionados soon began to lose interest in the grisly, blank scraps of paper. In order to keep up with the public’s demands, the hangmen began printing text on the scraps of paper – sometimes gibberish that was pleasing to the eye, more frequently the biographies of the criminals hanged by those particular scraps of paper, occasionally other texts, as well.
These “noose papers” proved to be wildly popular. Even after the advent of rope, hangmen continued selling off scraps of noose paper – at first, under the pretense that the criminal in question had still actually been hanged in them; later, when this began to stretch the public’s credulity, they simply sold the noose papers as information sheets about the deceased. This had the added benefit that they could sell a nigh-infinite number of papers per criminal without raising any questions about foul play.
As public hangings began to grow less common, folk etymology mistakenly attributed the purpose of these noose papers to being about carrying actual “news” – hence the erroneous spelling “newspaper” which is so popular today.
Disclaimer: the above post is not true. Factually Deficient does not advocate for public hangings.