POST-TRUTH ETHOS: When truth has become irrelevant


BBD 11-19-2016

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team reviews candidates for word of the year and then debates their merits, choosing one that captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year. (

Do you know that a “face with tears of joy” emoji [:’-)] is considered as a word? Last year, 2015, it was the word of the year. This year, the victorious word that took home the crown is 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.”

Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that use of the word post-truth has increased by approximately 2,000% over its usage in 2015.

The earliest known usage of post-truth

According to Oxford 300px-steve_tesich_001Dictionaries, the first time the term post-truth was used in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in the Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we,
as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’.

There is evidence of the phrase ‘post-truth’ being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning ‘after the truth was known’, and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.

Reflection of the ethos

According to the same dictionary, ethos means the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspiration.

Hence the ethos of our era can be reflected as post-truth era which means that our generation regards more to the emotion and personal belief. In short, it is an inclination to base actions and reactions from emotions and feelings as opposed to reason. Sentimentalism vs. Rationality.

We are sentimental people. Our ethos is characterized by sentimentalism. Shall we say, sentimental brats instead? Yeah. It drives home the point that best characterizes our generation. And yes, it includes me.

Here are the other runner ups for this year (definitions by Oxford Dictionaries):

  1. adulting, n. [mass noun] informal: the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
  2. alt-right, n. (U.S.): an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.
  3. Brexiteer, n. (British) informal: a person who is in favor of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.
  4. chatbot, n.: a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.
  5. coulrophobia, n. [mass noun] rare: extreme or irrational fear of clowns.
  6. glass cliff, n.: 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.
  7. hygge, n. [mass noun]: a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
  8. Latinx, n. (plural Latinxs or same) and adj.: a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina); relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).
  9. woke, adj. (woker, wokest) (U.S.) informal: alert to injustice in society, especially racism.




(Part II)


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