A Word about Word of the Year

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.

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