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Home | 2016 | November

Word Of The Year 2016

Posted by Austin Morris on UTC 2016-11-16 11.01.

Oxford University Press has announced its 'Word Of The Year' to be 'post-truth'. With its choice of this word the publishing house shows us that yet more brain cells have been lost and its journey into dementia is continuing apace.

Last year, OUP's WOTY was the emoji [Face with Tears of Joy] (2015), which caused a number of us stick-in-the-muds to wonder how a pictogram or symbol without possibility of alphabetic sequencing could be a 'word'. Of course, the task was really not to choose a WOTY but to write a press release containing Casper Grathwohl's name that would generate as much attention as possible for him and OUP.

At least the emoji [Face with Tears of Joy] contained some meaning. This year OUP managed at least to choose a word, but one that is meaning free.

The word 'post-truth' is just a smart-alec reworking of 'post-modern'. The latter hovered on the border of hip nonsense: not completely incomprehensible, but not fully comprehensible, either. The derivation 'post-truth', however, is pure nonsense.

In this construction, 'post' is an adverb of time. There is no period we can call 'truth', so there can be no 'post' after it. For all its faults, at least 'postmodern' applied 'post' to a cultural period, in the same way that we might write 'post-baroque' or 'post-war'. Never mind, the brains at OUP attempt to attach some sense to this nonsense with a meaning that is entirely in their heads, completely without reference to the components of the word: 'Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief'.

Even the Rolls-Royce minds at OUP realise that they still have to deal with that pesky word 'post' somehow, so they redefine this new 'nuance' of 'post' as ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’, citing 'post-racial' (!) as an example – an example that is as bizzarely meaningless as the word it is supposed to be illustrating. Let's wait until that nuance of 'post' makes it into the OED.

OUP doesn't really have much connection with the University or even the OED. One can only imagine the surprise in the Philosophy faculty of the University that OUP worked out what 'objective facts' were whilst the philosphers there are still foundering with the concept after so many centuries of pondering.

'Post-truth' is really just a pejorative propaganda label. Its lack of a clear implicit meaning makes it ideal for its propaganda purpose: smearing your opponents as liers or deniers of 'objective facts'. On your side there is the truth of 'objective facts', which your opponents brainlessly reject with 'appeals to emotion and personal belief'. We anti-science CAGW deniers have had to cope with this type of smearing since the beginning of that scare, when all these 'objective facts', backed up by the beliefs of '97% of climate scientists', are thrown at us.

Caspar helpfully goes on: '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'. Since 'objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief' the implication is that the outcomes of both events were the results of the powerful 'appeals to emotion and personal belief' made by the winners (a.k.a. 'knuckledraggers') as opposed to the 'objective facts' employed by the losing sides (a.k.a 'well-educated liberals').

At least, that is how the media has interpreted it. Taking up Caspar's reasoning the MSM propagates this dull press release with images of Trump and Farage together in 'Bling Towers' as well as the 'Boris Bus', decorated with the 'lie' that so bewildered the British people that it caused Brexit.

The lack of some images in this context is puzzling: where is Hillary 'what-difference-does-it-make' Clinton, whom the label 'post-truth' fits so well – 'Wipe. What? You mean, like, with a cloth?'; or hubby Bill's re-definition of 'having sex with' and the word 'is'; or Cameron, Osborne and Carney's 'Project Fear'™. Oh, of course, silly me: they all gave us 'objective facts', whereas Farage, Trump and all the other knuckledraggers simply used 'appeals to emotion and personal belief'. The family of the redneck unemployed steelworker in the Rustbelt of the USA living off foodstamps is only capable of arguing from 'emotion and personal belief'. The 'objective facts', wherein lies 'truth', only Obama, Clinton et al. can grasp.

I exaggerate? Just go and look at the right-on, SJW words that were the also-rans: adulting (really?), alt-right (rightwing thugs again), Brexiteer (but no 'Brexit', 'remainer' or even 'remoaner'?), chatbot (really?), coulrophobia (really?), glass cliff ['noun' sic, two words, one adjective, one noun], hygge (really?), Latinx (?), woke (?).

Dr Johnson's 'harmless drudges' are becoming really quite annoying.