PostTruth Is the OED’s Word of the Year for 2016


These are the opening paragraphs of “From Truthiness to Post­Truth, Just in Time for Donald Trump: Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year Should Scare the Hell out of You,” an article written by Erin Keane for Salon:

“Remember back in 2006, when Stephen Colbert, the fictional conservative blowhard TV personality played by comedian Stephen Colbert, coined the term “truthiness” on his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report”? Truthiness, as Colbert defines it, is “the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will   support.”

“It was the perfect word to serve the nation in the days of the George W. Bush administration. If you felt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, you could believe it was true that the U.S. had sufficient grounds to invade the    country and that the Bush administration and the lawmakers who voted in favor of this action did the right thing.

After all, believing is the same thing as knowing in a country that consistently dumps on liberal arts education while only pretending to champion science instead.

“With truthiness, though, we still recognized that truth exists, just that it could be overridden and bent to serve our own emotional purposes. Even the word itself suggests fidelity to a kind of truth—perhaps the loosiest­goosiest brand but still recognizable to its mother.

“In the cold, bitter light of November 2016, truthiness sounds positively quaint. We’re in the ‘post­truth’ era now, baby. The word of this year gained popularity in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and took on a life of its own   and three more heads, it seems, as Donald Trump’s campaign for president with its wild claims to ‘Make America Great Again proved unstoppable. Now it’s the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016.

“While Colbert joked Thursday on The Late Show that post­truth is ‘clearly a rip­off’ of his truthiness, it’s probably closer to the truth (that abused beast!) to instead say that post­truth is a direct descendent. In the 10 years that have passed, enough bullshit has floated in our public discourse that the level finally rose high enough to wipe out the bridge between fact and fiction.

“Post­truth is defined as a state in which ‘objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ Post­truth admits that facts exist but rejects their political utility. It’s not about what you personally believe but a crass and quasi­abusive exploitation of the human impulse to reach toward faith and tribal affiliation.

“A commitment to indulging truthiness thus gave rise to the post­truth era. Now, you don’t need to feel a lie is true in order to promote it as a fact, an ugly reality that we were slow to recognize in this divisive election year. You just  have to name it as the most expedient means to your political end and repeat it loudly in fifth­grade-reading-level English until it becomes a headline on a sharable link and takes on a life of its own.”

Keane’s complete article is available at:



The 2014 OED Word of the year was an emoji:

That’s right–for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph: , officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji, though you may know it by other names. There were other strong contenders from a range of fields, outlined below, but  was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.

Why was this chosen?

Emojis (the plural can be either emoji or emojis) have been around since the late 1990s, but 2015 saw their use, and use of the word emoji, increase hugely.

This year Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and  was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.

SwiftKey identified that  made up 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4% and 9% respectively in 2014. The word emoji has seen a similar surge: although it has been found in English since 1997, usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.

The runners-up were:

Ad blocker, noun: A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.

Brexit, noun: A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, from British + exit.

Dark Web, noun: The part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.

On Fleek, adjective phrase: Extremely good, attractive, or stylish.

Lumbersexual, noun: A young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and check shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle.

Refugee, noun: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Sharing Economy, noun: An economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.

They (singular pronoun): Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex.



The 2014 OED Word of the year was “vape”:

Vape, a verb meaning to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device, beat out everything from bae to normcore. It was coined in the late 1980s when companies like RJR Nabisco were experimenting with the first “smokeless” cigarettes. But, after years of languishing, the word is back, needed to distinguish a growing new habit from old-fashioned smoking. According to Oxford’s calculations, usage of vape, which as a noun can refer to an ecigarette or similar device, more than doubled between 2013 and 2014.

The runners-up were:

Bae (n., slang): a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner, likely a shortening of baby or babe, though some theorize that it is an acronym for “before anyone else.” The word can also be used as an adjective to describe something good or cool.

Budtender (n.): someone who works at a medical marijuana dispensary or retail marijuana shop.

Contactless (adj.): describing technologies that allow a smart card, etc., to connect wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.

Indyref (n., slang): an abbreviated form of Scotland’s failed referendum to declare independence from the United Kingdom.

Normcore (n.): a fashion movement in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate statement.

Slacktivist (n.): one who engages in digital activism on the Web which is regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Also slacktivism.



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