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Oxford Dictionaries name "post-truth" its word of 2016

The compound word relates to a situation where objective facts are less influential on public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Image: Nigel Farage/Facebook

THE TERM REACHED its apogee with Brexit and Donald Trump, and now “post-truth” has been named the word of 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries.

Post-truth connotes claims or circumstances “in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Social media giant Facebook has been accused of facilitating the election of Trump as US president-elect by failing to remove “fake news” from its online feed.

Manufactured news is seen as an example of the post-truth concept, which Oxford Dictionaries say made its first appearance in a 1992 essay by Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich.

“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse,” says Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries.

“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.”

Other contenders this year included:

  • alt-right
  • adulting
  • Brexiteer
  • chatbot
  • hygge
  • coulrophobia.
  • Latinx

In 1992, reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’.

This was the first time the phrase was used with the new meaning that truth itself has become irrelevant.

Oxford added that the compound word expands the meaning of the prefix post-.

Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in “post-war” – the dictionaries said it now has a meaning more like “belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant”.

To qualify for Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, a word need not have been coined in the past 12 months.

Post-truth is now included in OxfordDictionaries.com, and editors will monitor its future usage to decide upon inclusion in future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Read: ‘It doesn’t matter if the basis for your views are factually wrong, you can find them backed up online’

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