It’s official. We are living in a world where facts matter less than what people choose to believe. Or at least that’s what the people at Oxford Dictionaries seem to think, having declared that “post-truth” is the international word of the year for 2016.
Defined by the dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” the use of the word has shot up by more than 2000 percent compared to last year, partly as a result of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the White House.
“What we found especially interesting is that it encapsulated a trans-Atlantic phenomenon,” Katherine Connor Martin, the head of United States dictionaries at Oxford University Press, told the New York Times. “Often, when looking at words, you’ll find one that’s a really big deal in the U.K. but not in the U.S.”
The Oxford Dictionaries said that post-truth has gone from being “a peripheral term” to one used widely in political commentary and in mainstream media headlines without the need for clarification.
Post-truth succeeds the controversial face-with-tears-of-joy emoji which took the title last year, but it has been in use for longer than you might imagine. It was first seen in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Despite this slow rise to prominence, the term could become a defining word of our time, according to Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries:
“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse,” he said. “Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”
Here are the words post-truth beat to take the title:
• Adulting: behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult
• Alt-right: an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints
• Brexiteer: someone in favour of the UK leaving the EU
• Chatbot: an AI-powered computer program which simulates human conversation
• Coulrophobia: an extreme or irrational fear of clowns.
• Glass cliff: 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: the Danish quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality.
• Latinx: a gender neutral term for someone of Latin American origin or descent
• Woke: an alert to injustice in society, especially racism.