So there was a bit of a kerfuffle (oh, how I love that word!) the other week when the article “Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home” hit the airwaves. I first spotted the headline when a friend posted the article on Facebook with the comment “RIP.”
’Cause I’m a word nerd like that, the first thing I noticed was the word dyes (“changes the color of something using a dye,” M-W) where dies (“to stop living,” M-W) would have been correct — if it was really an article announcing the death of Betty White. It couldn’t be, I thought, that Betty White had passed away and some news outlet had mixed up the spelling of this garden-variety homophone, could it? In that context, it made for a so-bad-it’s-good typo.
When I clicked through the link, I found the joke was on us.
News of the story traveled fast, as it does, and people began to cry “Hoax!” I started to wonder: Hoax means “to trick or deceive (someone)” (M-W), but in this case, the article never said that Betty White was actually dead. In fact, it was quite clear she was not. The only people who thought she was deceased were the people who fell for the dyes vs. dies ruse. A tricksy headline, yes, but in my opinion, not a hoax. What do you think?