Brow Beat

Stephen Colbert Says Oxford Dictionaries’ Post-Truth Is Just Watered-Down Truthiness

You may recall that Stephen Colbert, in his old Comedy Central persona, coined the noun truthiness on the very first episode of The Colbert Report as a way of trying to make sense of the Bush administration’s dissimulations. Named the Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster in 2006, it’s defined as “the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support”—a pretty apt way to describe a lot of what’s going on right now.

Oxford Dictionaries seemed to agree, given its choice of the synonymous post-truth as the word of 2016.* On Thursday night’s Late Show, an amused Colbert responded to the selection, saying he felt “ripped off” and arguing that Oxford’s use of a hyphenated word was kind of a cop-out, anyway. His reaction is about right for the current state of things: Quibbling with a dictionary publisher over the best way to label our indifference to facts feels like depressingly accurate commentary for the misinformation crisis of this dire election season.

*Correction, Nov. 18, 2016: This post originally misidentified Oxford Dictionaries as the Oxford English Dictionary.