‘Post-truth’ has defeated ‘alt-right’ because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Last year, we had an emoji. The year before that, it was ‘vape’. The word of the year, declared by Oxford Dictionaries, is indicative of the general mood the past 12 months has seen – crying face, wanky cherry-flavoured smoke ring blower.
Now, we’ve got ‘post-truth’ – fitting, in the year of Brexit and Trump, that saw politics move from any farce of truth to emotionally charged irrationality.
The OED defines ‘post-truth’ as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” An analysis by the Oxford English Corpus charted the usage of ‘post-truth’, showing that it increased by 2,000 percent in the last year. It became particularly prominent in June around the time of the Brexit vote, and then across Trump’s presidential campaign. Truth, in each of these campaigns – whether it was where British taxpayers money would go following the split from the EU or claims about global warming, refugees and military spending – is no longer relevant.
Backing up the world of post-truth that we’re forced to inhabit is the runner-up for word of the year, ‘alt-right’ – dude bros that rail against political correctness and mainstream conservatism on 4Chan from cubby hole bedrooms.
‘Brexiteer’ was another on the shortlist of words reflecting the social, political, technological and cultural trends of 2016. Outside of political words and phrases came ‘adulting’ and ‘chatbot’. On a more positive note, some of the shortlisted words seemed to reflect that people were also becoming more socially aware: encapsulated with the words ‘woke’ and ‘Latinx’, a gender neutral term for someone of Latin American origin.
Oxford Dictionaries' Casper Grathwohl told BBC News: “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,” he added.
“What we found especially interesting is that it encapsulated a trans-Atlantic phenomenon,” said Katherine Connor Martin, the head of the United States dictionaries at Oxford University press. “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.”