Oxford Dictionaries has announced “post-truth” is its 2016 international word of the year. Reflecting the widespread impact of the US election and the Brexit debate, both the US and UK dictionaries chose the term.
Defined 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”, use of the term has increased by around 2,000% in 2016. “Post-truth” was chosen ahead of a shortlist including other political terms, such as “Brexiteer” and “alt-right”, and cultural alternatives, such as “coulroophobia” (the fear of clowns) and “hygge”.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, the term ” post-truth” was first used in an essay by playwright Steve Tesich in a 1992 edition of Nation magazine. Commenting on the Iran-Contra affair and the Persian Gulf war, Tesich noted that “we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world”.
Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, commented, “Fuelled 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.
“We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured 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.”
“Post-truth” has been added to OxfordDictionaries.com, while editors will analyse its ongoing usage to see whether it will be included in future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.
To see Oxford Dictionaries’ full reasoning and shortlist, click here.