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Fnord is the typographic representation of disinformation or irrelevant information intending to misdirect, with the implication of a conspiracy. The word was coined as a nonsensical term with religious undertones in the Discordian religious text Principia Discordia (1965) by Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, but was popularized by The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) of satirical conspiracy fiction novels by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

Definition and usage

The Illuminatus! Trilogy

In these novels, the interjection "fnord" is given hypnotic power over the unenlightened. Under the Illuminati program, children, while still in grade school, are taught to be unable to consciously see the word "fnord". For the rest of their lives, every appearance of the word subconsciously generates a feeling of uneasiness and confusion, and prevents rational consideration of the subject.

In the Shea/Wilson construct, fnords are scattered liberally in the text of newspapers and magazines, causing fear and anxiety in those following current events. However, there are no fnords in the advertisements, encouraging a consumerist society. It is implied in the books that fnord is not the actual word used for this task, but merely a substitute, since most readers would be unable to see the actual word.

To see the fnords means to be unaffected by the supposed hypnotic power of the word or, more loosely, of other fighting words. The phrase "I have seen the fnords" was famously graffitied on a railway bridge (known locally as Anarchy Bridge) between Earlsdon and Coventry (U.K.) city centre throughout the 1980s and 1990s, until the bridge was upgraded. The bridge and the phrase were mentioned in the novel A Touch of Love by Jonathan Coe. Fnord was also graffitied all over the state of Maine and New England.

In the John Carpenter movie They Live, the main character discovers a similar conspiracy when hidden conformity messages appearing on billboards, magazines, television, and currency are revealed to those wearing special sunglasses.


"Fnord" is a popular word with followers of Discordianism. It is often used in Usenet and other computer circles to indicate a random or surreal sentence; coercive subtext, or anything jarringly out of context (intentionally or not), can be labelled "fnord".

Other subcultures

The term is also commonly used by hackers and programmers as a metasyntactic variable. It appears in the SubGenius Recruitment film Arise! and has been in use in the SubGenius newsgroup alt.slack.

A well-known fnord also occurs within the text of part of the High Energy Weapons Archive website

Popular culture

In the online parody role playing game the Kingdom of Loathing, when one acquires 23 of one item at a time, the word FNORD appears in white text after the game message. As the browser background is also white, it is invisible unless highlighted, adding to the joke of the "conspiracy".

GURPS material also uses the term, usually coupled with "You're not cleared for that!" E.g., on their website.

In the Steve Jackson game Illuminati, a card for the Fnord Motor company (a reference to Ford Motors) is included. Also, in the game's first expansion set, a chip with the word "Fnord" written on it was included with instructions to "Hide this chip someplace your friends will never find it".

See also

References and further reading


External links

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