The 2016 U.S. presidential election is going to have an impact on more than just the economy, geopolitics, and civil rights; it’s going to affect the English language.
The Oxford Dictionaries say they’ve spotted a trend through that campaign, as well as others in the English-speaking world, something that could reportedly become “one of the defining words of our time.”
“Post-truth” has been named as the word of the year for 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries. It is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
It won the honorific because use of the term rose 2,000 percent between this year and last, and it applied to more than just the race for the White House.
Video: learn more about our Word of the Year and shortlist from dictionaries editor Jonathan Dent: https://t.co/yl588Txkrg
— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) November 16, 2016
In Britain, the campaign to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, was marked by numerous factual evasions and missteps. Yet the side that appeared to use truth more loosely won, much like Mr. Trump.
The Oxford Dictionaries says the word is used an adjective, and is mostly associated with “post-truth politics.”
“Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines,” the company said in a statement.
The term post-truth calls to mind 2006’s word of the year for some dictionaries: “truthiness.”
Stephen Colbert is popularly credited with coining that term, deploying it repeatedly when talking about the Bush administration’s military operation in Iraq.
However, Katherine Connor Martin, the head of United States dictionaries at Oxford University Press, told the New York Times: “Truthiness is a humorous way of discussing a quality of specific claims. Post-truth is an adjective that is describing a much bigger thing. It’s saying that the truth is being regarded as mostly irrelevant.”
Both “truthiness” and “post-truth” weren’t invented to describe the political climate in which they were frequently invoked. Linguists have found older uses of both words, and instead attribute their recent rise in popularity to people looking for accurate descriptions of their apparent political consternation.
The election of Donald Trump has also given rise to other curiosities and discoveries in the English language.
Merriam-Webster reports that the most searched-for words following Mr. Trump’s victory were, in order: fascism, bigot, xenophobe, racism, socialism, resurgence, xenophobia, and misogyny.
All of those ideas were central talking points in the rhetoric of both presidential campaigns, whether as accusations or denials.
Runners-up for the 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries include “Brexiteer,” which is an advocate of the U.K. leaving the EU; “alt-right,” which is an extreme, conservative, mostly online political movement; “adulting,” which is the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult; and “woke,” an adjective in America used informally to describe a person’s awareness towards injustice in society, especially racism.
The seriousness of the words defining 2016 stand a far cry from 2015, when Oxford Dictionaries chose a smiling, crying emoji as its word of the year.