Post-truth named 2016 word of the year

Published 1:13 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries select a “Word of the Year.” The editorial staff’s choice often reflects current events or trends in our culture.

For instance, in 2009, the Word of the Year selected was “tweet,” defined as a short, timely message sent via or the act of sending such a message. In 2013, the Word of the Year was “selfie,” meaning “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

In 2014, the word was “vape,” used as a noun or verb for smoking with electronic cigarettes. For the first time ever, in 2015, the Word of the Year was not a word with letters but rather a pictograph known as the emoji ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ (the yellow smiley face with tears in the eyes).

“I will forever be amazed at the power of words. String just the right words together and you form a thread of hope. Tie enough of those threads of hope to human hearts and a collective stirring happens. Place that stirring in the midst of people bold enough to dream, and you have a movement. Movements change the world. I wonder what it was like the day Dr. Martin Luther King picked up his pen and dared to scribble: ‘I have a dream,’ ” writes author/speaker Lysa Tyrkeurst

Words do have meaning. Words can heal and words can hurt. Some words have significance and other words are insignificant.   So what does “Post-truth,” the 2016 Word of the Year, say about our culture? At first glance, I thought the two words did not logically belong together. It seems to devalue the meaning of truth.

In a Washington Post article announcing the 2016 Word of the Year, Amy Wang writes,“It’s official: Truth is dead. Facts are passé.”

According to Oxford Dictionaries, “post-truth” means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Or as author/speaker John Stonestreet has remarked, “The concept of ‘post-truth’……..doesn’t discount the existence of truth. Rather, a post-truth society is one in which truth takes a back seat to emotion—where feelings effectively replace facts.”

But it also means “that in this culture we willfully and justifiably convey something false because it accomplishes a personal or end goal: the end justifies the means, which do not need to justify themselves,” author Ravi Zacharias commented.

Zacharias concludes, “At the heart of existence is a moral law. That law had dare not be violated. Jesus said, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31–32). True freedom is not the liberty to do as we please; rather, to do as we ought. For that we need the truth. The grace of God is our only hope to enable us to live by the truth. No culture can survive without this.”


– Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at