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The new 'Word of the Year' couldn't more accurately describe 2016.

Each year, Oxford Dictionaries chooses a single word or expression that captures the ethos or mood of that particular year, and has the potential to become a word of cultural significance.

Last year, a ‘pictograph’ (or emoji) was chosen for the first time:

The tears of joy emoji apparently best expressed the "preoccupations" of 2015. But this year, there's a very noticeable change of tone.

The Word of the Year for 2016 is 'post-truth,' and it couldn't be a more accurate linguistic summary of the borderline-unbelievable events that have characterised the last 12 months.

Post-truth is defined as an adjective "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief".

It's just so clever. 

We saw this concept play out profoundly in the US presidential election, with the repeated use of talking points that completely ignored factual rebuttals. When it came to Hillary Clinton, it didn't really matter what the objective facts were - the belief that she was corrupt and untrustworthy was far more influential.

Donald Trump's election had a lot to do with post-truth politics.

Political commentators have started to use the term more frequently in reference to the 24-hour news cycle, unbalanced news reporting, and the increased use of social media as a source of information.

Indeed, in our news feeds and in mass media more generally, we've seen an increased tendency to appeal to emotion in order to get a point across, rather than the reiteration of factual information.

Speaking about the term, Casper Grathwohl of Oxford Dictionaries said post-truth is "fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment."

"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," he said.

It's been a truly bizarre year. Image via Getty.
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A number of other words that made the shortlist also did a creepily good job at summarising 2016:
  • Adulting: The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks
  • Alt-right: An ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content
  • Brexiteer: A person who is in favour of the UK withdrawing from the European Union
  • Chatbot: A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet
  • Coulrophobia: Extreme or irrational fear of clowns
I think we're all ready to forget the clowns. Image via iStock.
  • Glass cliff: Used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high
  • Hygge: A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)
  • Latinx: A person of Latin American origin or descent, used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina
  • Woke: Originally in African-American usage meaning alert to injustice in society, especially racism

What a year for the English language!

Tags: facebook-rogue , language , linguistics , words
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