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Oxford Dictionaries Names 'Post-Truth' Word of Year

Alison Flood - The Guardian
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November 26, 2016
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Post-truth is Oxford Dictionaries' 2016 word of the year. It's a fact. Can you feel it? (Fusion)

In the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year.

Defined by the dictionary as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”.



Oxford Dictionaries’s word of the year is intended to “reflect the passing year in language”, with post-truth following the controversial choice last year of the “face with tears of joy” emoji. The publisher’s US and UK dictionary teams sometimes plump for different choices – in 2009 the UK went for “simples” and the US for “unfriend”; in 2006 the UK went for “bovvered” and the US for “carbon-neutral” – but this year teams on both sides of the Atlantic chose the same word.



Contenders for the title had included the noun “alt-right”, shortened from the fuller form “alternative right” and defined as “an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content”. First used in 2008, its use “surged” this spring and summer, said the dictionary, with 30% of usage in August alone. Brexiteer was also in the running for the crown, along with non-political terms including coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness.



But the increase in usage of post-truth saw the term eventually emerge ahead of the pack. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and Donald Trump securing the Republican presidential nomination. Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time,” predicted Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl.

Read the rest at The Guardian

Related: Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year Should Scare the Hell Out of You (Salon)

Related: ‘Xenophobia’ - the Fear or Hatred of Foreigners, People from Different Cultures, or Strangers - is Dictionary.com Word of the Year (The Associated Press)

The rest of the shortlist

adulting: noun, informal
The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

alt-right: noun
An ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.

Brexiteer: noun, informal
A person who is in favor of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

chatbot: noun
A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet.

coulrophobia: noun
Extreme or irrational fear of clowns.

glass cliff: noun
Used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high.

hygge: noun
A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Latinx: noun
A person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).

woke: adjective, US informal
[Originally in African-American usage] Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.

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