It’s the time of year when word professionals choose words of the year. In this most political of years, it’s no surprise Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year.
For those unfamiliar with the word, “post-truth” is defined as “relating or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influentional in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Oxford dictionary editors noted a roughly 2,000 percent increase in the word’s usage over 2015 as the United States and the United Kingdom endured political campaigns that kept fact-checkers busy debunking untrue statements.
Another finalist for word of the year also had political overtones: “alt-right.” Oxford defines “alt-right” as “an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.” Another finalist had nothing at all to do with politics. It was “adulting,” a word which, so far as The Scribe can tell, is used primarily by young adults to describe acts they associate with adulthood, such as “I’m adulting so hard I found a job, bought a stationwagon, and acquired a golden retriever.”
The 2016 word of the year might remind some readers of Merriam-Webster’s 2006 word of the year, “truthiness.” That word, coined by Stephen Colbert, described the phenomenon of believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact.