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2016’s Word of the Year is super depressing

By most metrics, 2016 has been a crappy year.

Brexit, Trump, Orlando, Syria…the list goes on. It was so crappy, in fact, that Jon Oliver decided to end this season of Last Week Tonight with a kind of anti-tribute to it:

It’s probably no surprise then that we have a depressing ‘Word of the Year’ (WOTY) this year: ‘post-truth’.

Oxford Dictionaries 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”.

I.e. feelings are more important than facts.

Although the prefix ‘post’ usually means ‘after’, in this case it is something more akin to ‘faux’.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, this word has been used for the past decade, but saw massive spikes due to the Brexit vote and U.S election campaign.

Depressingly, the term has become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase ‘post-truth politics’.

And no one embodies the concept of ‘post-truth’ more than the President elect, Donald Trump.

Trump, whose sources include “the Internet” and “many people” said some truly ridiculous things in 2016.

In case you were lucky enough to miss it, Trump told us that Obama founded ISIS. He also said that Ted Cruz’s father may have been involved with the JFK assassination. And much, much more.

Every year since 2004, Oxford Dictionaries has announced its WOTY, a word or expression that according to them “has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months.”

The methodology behind the WOTY selection is explained on the Oxford Dictionaries FAQ page.

After collecting around 150 million words from newspapers, books, blogs and transcripts, the experts use software to identify a shortlist of notable words used throughout the year.

The Oxford Dictionaries team then makes a final selection from the shortlist and voilà, the WOTY is born.

Someone who wasn’t happy about the WOTY announcement was late night talk show host Stephen Colbert.

In his former Comedy Central persona with – confusingly – the same name, Colbert famously coined the noun “truthiness” as a way to understand the Bush Administration’s statements.

Named as WOTY by rival dictionary Merriam Webster in 2006, ‘truthiness’ is defined as “the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support”.

On Thursday night’s show, Colbert jokingly claimed that he was ‘pre-enraged’ with the selection committee for choosing ‘post-truth’ as the 2016 WOTY, citing the fact that it is a rip-off of his 2006 word ‘truthiness’.

Maybe ‘post-truth’ wasn’t the best choice after all. As Colbert showed, it was already a WOTY ten years ago. Also, who wants to live in a ‘post-truth’ world?

The WOTYs for the previous three years were much more fun.

In 2015, it was ‘the crying face emoji’, in 2014, it was ‘vape’ and in 2013, it was ‘selfie’.

This year, there were a total of nine finalists to choose from:

WOTY finalists

With everyone totally burnt-out on politics this year, Oxford Dictionaries should have done the right thing and chosen ‘hygge’ as word of the year.

Sure, no one I ask has ever heard of it, but ‘hygge’ is lovely and should have won.

Pronounced “hue – gah”, ‘hygge’ is the Danish concept of being cosy. Think giant plush cushions, a blanket, a fire, dim lighting and wood. Are you onboard yet? Cos I sure am.

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna call BS on this WOTY thing.

‘Post-truth’ is a post-truth itself. Facts are still facts and the very existence of this word will only serve to legitimize the actions of politicians who lie to us.

2016 may have been a crappy year.

So go home, kick off your shoes and ‘hygge’ with someone you love.

2017 will be better, right?

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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