Catfishing can be part of a romance scam. According to Vince Pierce, the husband of Angela Pierce who deceptively creates an online profile in the documentary film, the term catfish comes from fishermen "putting catfish in with the cod to nip at their tails and keep them active" during overseas transport in order to produce more lively and fresh meat. This etymology has been described as having "all the hallmarks of apocryphal folklore" by Ben Zimmer writing for The Boston Globe, pointing out that catfish were used "as a kind of Christian parable (referring to the Atlantic rather than [as in Pierce's explanation] the Pacific fishing trade) in Henry W. Nevinson's 1913 Essays in Rebellion and again in Charles Marriott's novel The Catfish published later the same year."
Catfishing has proven to be a way for some online users to explore their sexual identities. For example, on the MTV show Catfish, based on the documentary, a girl named Sonny connects with a male model named Jamison who is, in reality, Chelsea, a female using her alternate identity to interact with other females in an online space.
- Harris, Aisha (January 18, 2013). "Catfish meaning and definition: term for online hoaxes has a surprisingly long history". Slate. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- "Why is MTV's 'Catfish' TV show called Catfish?". starcasm.net. November 26, 2012. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- Zimmer, Ben (January 27, 2013). "Catfish: How Manti Te'o's imaginary romance got its name". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- Shapiro, T. Rees (December 10, 2014). "U-Va. students challenge Rolling Stone account of alleged sexual assault". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- Shapiro, Jeffrey Scott (December 15, 2014). "U.Va. rape accuser's friends begin to doubt story". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- Slade, Alison F.; Narro, Amber J. & Buchanan, Burton P. (2014). Reality Television: Oddities of Culture. Lexington Books. pp. 237–244. ISBN 978-0-7391-8564-3.
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