Sunday, November 27, 2016

Terminology - OED WOTY!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The Oxford English Dictionaries also select a WOTY (word of the year)!  And the votes are already tallied. The OED WOTY 2016 is… post-truth – a word which you might have recently seen flooding the media! In fact, according to OED researchers, usage of this word has  increased  approximately 2000% in 2015. 

Post-truth in 2016 has a quite different meaning from what one might expect. Post-truth selected as WOTY 2016 by the OED means “relating or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal beliefs”, in contrast to “post-truth meaning “after the truth.

Consider the following two examples:
(1)   'Pre-truth' far scarier than 'post-truth'. (Bangkok Post - Rithdee, 2016)
(2) "Of all the concerns facing a Madam President, governing in a post-truth environment may be the biggest challenge. Perhaps a third of American adults now believe a few Big Lies. And those Big Lies may be nearly impossible to dislodge, because in the course of this awful election, even fact-checking became suspect." (NYTimes – Egan, 2016)

The first example is the title of an article where pre-truth refers to a situation or state with no truth is sight, and post-truth refers to at least some involvement of truth, assuming a post-modern stance where there is not one truth, but many truths, and at least one truth has prevailed. The prefix post means "after". In the second example, the author is referring to governing in an environment where facts and truth no longer take precedence. The prefix post means "belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant".   

So indeed, post-truth in 2016 is actually the antonym of post-truth as in post-war ! In a post-truth 2016 US environment, for example: 
 “More than 70 percent of Trump’s statements have been rated false, mostly false or pants-on-fire lies by PolitiFact — nearly three times the falsity score of Hillary Clinton. And yet, Trump is considered more honest and trustworthy in some polls.” [NYTimes – Egan, 2016). 

So, post-truth is dangerous, isn’t it? And, of course, both Google and Facebook are blamed for spreading “fake news", in turn prompting their action against fake news sites. (WSJ - James Taranto - Interview; WSJ - Nicas & Seetharaman, 2016)

However, the OED’s choice of post-truth as WOTY 2016 was not without serious competition.  Competition for the OED WOTY 2016 title included such terms as brexiteer, Alt-right, Latinx and adulting, among others.

Brexiteer is used in reference to “anti-European Union advocates”. Alt-right (short for Alternative Right) refers to an ultra-conservative group in the United States with "far right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States" (Wikipedia). Adulting, like parenting, refers to behaving as a responsible adult. And Latinx arises as a gender-neutral term for a person of Latin origin, instead of the terms Latina or Latino

Cheers for catching post-truth in 2016! It was spotted as Truth Lite in 2004 (Keyes, 2004)... but that was way before it really spiked! đź‘ 

References
Egan, T. (Nov. 4, 2016) Post-truth Presidency - NYTimes
Holmes, R. (Nov. 16, 2016) Oxford Dictionaries names 'post-truth' word of the year
Keyes, R. (2004) The post-truth era: Dishonesty and deception in contemporary life. NY, NY: St. Martins Press
Nicas, J. and D. Seetharaman (Nov. 15, 2016) Google and Facebook take aim at fake news sites, Wall Street Journal
NPR (National Public Radio) Staff – What you need to know about the Alt-Right movement (Aug, 26, 2016) 
Oxford English Dictionaries - Word of the Year
Politifact
http://www.politifact.com/  
Rithdee, K. (Nov. 19, 2016) Pre-truth far scarier than post-truth. Bangkok Post
http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1139021/pre-truth-far-scarier-than-post-truth 
Sharockman , A. (Aug 16, 2016) The post-truth election? Comparing 2016 to past elections on the Truth-O-Meter, Politifact
WSJ - Wall Street Journal  (Nov. 22, 2016)  Fake news and fake scandals - James Taranto Interview
Wikipedia – Alt-right

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