The US election and the United Kingdom’s referendum on continued membership in the European Union are affecting society in ways both monumental and less so.
Among the less consequential but no less interesting effects is the impact on language. The publisher of the Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, annually chooses the word of the year to reflect the passing year in language.
This year’s winner, post-truth, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotional and personal belief.” The editors noted that use of the term increased by nearly 2000% over 2015, undoubtedly in the context of the EU referendum and the US election.
The US and UK dictionary teams sometimes make different choices, but this year post-truth summed it up for teams on both sides of the pond. Another popular contender was “alt-right,” a shortened form of “alternative right” that denotes “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.” Although first used in 2008, this term surged in use over the past spring and summer months.
Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl said that “I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.” According to Oxford Dictionaries, the term was first used in 1992 in an essay by playwright Steve Tesich in the Nation magazine that addressed the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War.
Post-truth has been included in the Oxford Dictionary, with editors to monitor the word’s usage for inclusion of future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.
For more information, please read:
‘Post-truth’ named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries | The Guardian