A Rose by any other name…Should you use a nicer word or is “fake” OK?

Posted by Bruce Canfield

In the previous incarnation of “Canfield’s Corner,” I wrote a number of pieces regarding various aspects of fake U.S. martial collectibles. I soon found myself in something of a minefield of semantics as some individuals objected to my use of the word “fake” to describe items that were crafted to resemble the genuine article but weren’t original. Most of the objections to this particular “F word” centered around the contention that the intent of the maker or seller of the article in question should determine the proper word to be used. Many of those who felt this way believed that the word “fake” should be reserved for items that were being offered for sale with the expressed intent of cheating the buyer by telling him that something was real when it wasn’t. Otherwise, a less objectionable word should be used. This got me to thinking and I went to the trusty dictionary to see if I erred in using the word fake as a generic term rather than in a narrower context that takes into consideration the intent of the seller. Virtually all of the reference sources I consulted more or less agreed on the following definition… “Fake…Anything that is not genuine or authentic.” That’s exactly what I thought. None of the dictionaries or thesauruses alluded to the intent of a seller to cheat a buyer. Armed with this grammatical support, I continued to use the word “fake” to denote any U.S. martial item (weapon or otherwise) that is not genuine.

What prompted this posting is the increasing popular practice of fabricating what appear to be desirable martial collectibles using more common (and less valuable) weapons. The reason for this practice becoming even more prevalent is the continuing interest in U.S. martial arms collecting combined with the paucity of genuine specimens and the typical hefty prices tags attached to such items. A recent example of this practice are the products of at least one commercial enterprise that uses a common 03A3 receiver and some newly made components (including stocks and telescopes) to assemble something that resembles a real M1903A4 sniper rifle. Purportedly, some of these receivers were salvaged from drill rifles but I don’t know if this is correct or not. In any event, these ersatz ‘03A4 sniper rifles are being offered for sale from several sources and some guys are buying them. For the record, the purveyors of these rifles (at least the ads I’ve seen) are not misrepresenting them as genuine sniper rifles. I must stop at this point and clearly state that anyone should be free to spend their money on anything that makes them happy. If someone wants to buy a fake…oops, pardon me… a “replica” M1903A4 rifle, that’s their prerogative. I must say that the non-original stuff isn’t my cup of tea but, as the cliché goes, “different strokes for different folks.” If that makes them happy, it certainly doesn’t give me any heartburn. None of the buyers of these rifles have to explain to anyone their motivation and it’s really nobody’s business. An exception to the latter, however, is if someone posts on an Internet discussion board requesting comments on their recent purchase. That act automatically turns it into anybody’s business who logs on to such websites. The comments range from “Wow, those are cool. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those really neat rifles also,” to “Why would anybody waste their money on such junk?” Most comments seem to be somewhere between these two extremes.

As a writer, words are interesting things to me. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a brief list of some of my favorite euphemisms for the dreaded word in question. I’ll list them in inverse order with my favorite being last:

Lame attempt

“Excellent copy”
“Authentic looking”

Honorable Mention


..and the winner is…

“Rendered in the spirit of the original.”

I didn’t make the winner up…I actually read it on a website. The guy who came up with this one should receive some sort of award. That term is so much more lyrical than the ugly word “fake.” Perhaps, someone will buy the item so creatively described and pay for it with currency that was also “rendered in the spirit of the original.” I’ll bet the Secret Service guys who would subsequently arrest him for counterfeiting would get a big laugh.

Maybe I’ll reconsider my wanton use of the word “fake” after all. Actually, plastic surgeons long ago shunned the word “fake” to describe the results of a certain popular elective surgery for ladies in favor of the word “augmented” or, perhaps, “enhanced.” Euphemisms usually sound so much classier. Maybe the practice of substituting euphemisms for more common words or phrases will catch on and we’ll start reading in the newspaper about women who were arrested for being (pick your favorite):

“Ladies of the evening”
“Fallen angels”
“Soiled Doves”
“Happiness Consultants”

Now don’t these terms sound so much nicer than crass words that are usually used to describe such ladies? Maybe it’s time for me to stop using the word “fake.” On second thought…forget it.

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