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Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Post-Truth’ Its Word of the Year

November 16, 2016

For its 2016 word of the year, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen “post-truth,” a phrase it defines as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” (The noun “demagoguery” and adjective “ad hominem” have similar meanings.)

As Time magazine reports, the “word of the year,” selected by Oxford’s editors, doesn’t need to be new — only to capture the English-speaking public’s current mood and preoccupations.

The phrase “post-truth” dates back to at least 1992. But Oxford, which monitors how people use English, says usage of “post-truth politics” exploded by 2,000 percent in 2016 — “a year dominated by highly charged political and social discourse,” to quote Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries. Use of the phrase has been “Fueled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment,” he said.

Other entries in Oxford’s short list of words this year include the informal nouns “adulting,” which means the practice of behaving like a responsible adult; “chatbot,” a computer program designed to simulate conversations with people over the Internet; and “glass cliff,” a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position whose occupants typically face a high risk of failure.  — Greg Beaubien

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