- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- The American Dialect Society named “fake news” the 2017 Word of the Year.
- It said President Donald Trump helped change the definition of fake news from disinformation presented as news to “actual news that is claimed to be untrue.”
- Meanwhile, “alternative facts” was named Euphemism of the Year and “covfefe” was named WTF Word of the Year.
But this weekend, it was another one of Trump’s favorite words – “fake news” – that was named the American Dialect Society’s 2017 Word of the Year.
The organization of linguists, grammarians, and language experts chose the term at its annual conference on Friday, held this year in Salt Lake City. The group’s flagship event, once called “the Super Bowl of linguistics,” aims to crown the word or phrase that defined the year and saw widespread or innovative usage.
Of course, fake news has existed long before 2017. In fact, the term was a finalist in last year’s Word of the Year voting, defined as “disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news.” However, Trump’s repeated usage of the term in 2017 actually gave way to a new meaning: “actual news that is claimed to be untrue,” according to the American Dialect Society.
It was that redefinition of “fake news” that pushed it over the top this time around.
“When President Trump latched on to ‘fake news’ early in 2017, he often used it as a rhetorical bludgeon to disparage any news report that he happened to disagree with,” Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee, said in a statement.
“That obscured the earlier use of ‘fake news’ for misinformation or disinformation spread online, as was seen on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign,” he said. “Trump’s version of ‘fake news’ became a catchphrase among the president’s supporters, seeking to expose biases in mainstream media.”
“But it also developed more ironic uses, and it spread to speakers of all ages as a sarcastic putdown,” Zimmer added.
In another Trump-inspired vote, “alternative facts” was named the Euphemism of the Year, in honor of senior counselor Kellyanne Conway’s infamous coinage from a television appearance last January. Meanwhile,”covfefe” was voted the WTF Word of the Year after the enigmatic typo sent Twitter into a frenzy in May.
But it wasn’t all politics at the voting session. “Most Creative” honors went to “broflake,” defined as a “man or boy who lacks resilience or coping skills in the face of disagreements or setbacks.” And “#MeToo” was named Hashtag of the Year after scores of women used it to show their support for victims of sexual harassment or assault.
The American Dialect Society has voted on the Word of the Year every year since 1990. Previous winners include “bailout,” “metrosexual,” and “web.”
Here is the full list of winners and nominees (winners in bold):
Word of the Year
alternative facts: Contrary information that matches one’s preferred narrative or interpretation of events. * fake news: 1. Disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news. 2. actual news that is claimed to be untrue. #MeToo: Indication by women that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault. milkshake duck: Person or thing that is deeply loved until problematic behavior is revealed or unearthed. persisterhood, persister: Blend of “persist” and “sister(hood),” an expression of solidarity for women who persist in the face of sexism and gender bias. pussyhat: Pink knitted hat worn by demonstrators at the Women’s March. take a knee: Kneel in protest, especially during a time when others are standing. whomst: Humorous variant of “whom” used as a sarcastic display of intelligence.
Political Word of the Year
antifa: Anti-fascist movements and organizations, treated as a whole. persister, persisterhood: Blend of “persist” and “sister(hood),” an expression of solidarity for women who persist in the face of sexism and gender bias. * take a knee: Kneel in protest, especially during a time when others are standing.
Digital Word of the Year
blockchain: Technology underlying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which exploded in value this year. digital blackface: When a (usu. white) person uses images of black people as a proxy for themselves on social media. emergency podcast: An audio show prepared at a moment of dire political need. get the zucc: Be banned from Facebook (from the name of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg). initial coin offering: Capital-raising process to collect funds to start up a new cryptocurrency. ratio: On Twitter, amount of replies to a tweet compared to the number of retweets and likes. rogue adj.: Describing someone ostensibly working in an administration who is posting messages against it. * s—post: Posting of worthless or irrelevant online content intended to derail a conversation or to provoke others
Slang/Informal Word of the Year
RIP: Humorous expression of being overwhelmed by emotions or other factors, as if dying. shooketh: Mock-archaic way of expressing shock or excitement. snatched: Good-looking, attractive. * wypipo: Humorous phonetic spelling of “white people” used to flag white privilege, cluelessness, or absurdity.
angry react, sad react: Expression of anger or sorrow (describing reaction emoji, e.g. on Facebook). -burger: Combining form modeled on “nothingburger.” * die by suicide: A variant of “to commit suicide” that does not suggest a criminal act. millennial pink: Tint of pink used in goods and social media by and for millennials.
Most Likely To Succeed
* fake news: 1. Disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news. 2. actual news that is claimed to be untrue. stan v.: Be a big fan (from Eminem song, “Stan”). unicorn: A one-of-a-kind person or thing.
askhole: Person who continuously asks ridiculous or obnoxious questions. * broflake: Man or boy who lacks resilience or coping skills in the face of disagreements or setbacks. caucacity: Blatantly exhibiting white privilege or acting in a stereotypically white way (a blend of “Caucasian” and “audacity”). milkshake duck: Person or thing that is deeply loved until problematic behavior is revealed or unearthed.
Euphemism of the Year
* alternative facts: Contrary information that matches one’s preferred narrative or interpretation of events. avocado toast: A minor indulgence for which people unfairly judge others, esp. millennials. Internet freedom: Removal of net-neutrality regulations by the FCC. problematic: An understated way to say something is very wrong or unacceptably politically incorrect.
WTF Word of the Year
* covfefe: A (probably) mistyped word of unknown meaning used in a Donald Trump tweet. Oh hi Mark, ohimark: Catchphrase based on a line from the notoriously bad movie “The Room.” procrastination nanny: Person who moderates productivity for other adults, esp. as a group event. raw water: Water from natural sources without filters or treatment.
Hashtag of the Year
* #MeToo: Indication by women that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault. #NeverthelessShePersisted: Feminist rallying cry based on Mitch McConnell’s warning to Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate. #ReclaimingMyTime: Phrase repeated by Rep. Maxine Waters when questioning Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a House committee hearing. #Resist: Slogan of the (anti-Trump) resistance.