"Truthiness" is a term first used in its current satirical sense by American television comedian Stephen Colbert in 2005, to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. [cite news|url=|title=The Truth Of Truthiness|author=Dick Meyer|publisher=CBS News|date=2006-12-12|accessdate=2006-12-14 ] Colbert introduced this definitioncite web|url=|accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Language Log: Truthiness Or Trustiness?] of the word during the pilot episode of his satirical television program "The Colbert Report" on October 17, 2005, as the subject of a segment called "The Wørd". "Truthiness" was named Word of the Year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.cite web|url= |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Truthiness Voted 2005 Word of the Year by American Dialect Society |format=PDF] cite web|url=|title=Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year 2006|publisher=Merriam-Webster|accessdate=2006-12-08]

The word "truthiness"cite news|url=|title=The Truthiness Teller |author=Marc Peyser |publisher=Newsweek |date=2006-02-13|accessdate=2006-06-04 ] has a history in literature and appears in the "Oxford English Dictionary" (OED) (as a derivation of "") and "The Century Dictionary", both of which indicate it as rare or dialectal, and to be defined more straightforwardly as "truthfulness, faithfulness". The prior existence of the word was brought to public attention by linguist and OED consultant Benjamin Zimmer. [cite web|url= |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Benjamin Zimmer homepage ]

By using the term as part of his routine, Colbert sought to satirize the use of appeal to emotion and the "gut feeling" as a rhetorical device in contemporary socio-political discourse.cite news|url= |title=Interview: Stephen Colbert |author=Nathan Rabin |publisher=A.V. Club |date=2006-01-26 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] He particularly applied it to U.S. President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.cite web|url=|date=2005-10-17|accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Colbert Report: Videos: The Word (Truthiness) ] Colbert later ascribed truthiness to other institutions and organizations, such as Wikipedia. [ The Colbert Report / Comedy Central recording] of The WØRD "Wikiality", Comedy Central, July 31, 2006.]

Adoption of the term by Colbert

Colbert came up with the word "truthiness" just moments before taping the premiere episode of "The Colbert Report" on October 17, 2005, after deciding that the originally scripted word – "truth" – was not absolutely ridiculous enough. "We're not talking about truth, we're talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist," he explained.cite news|url= |title=Stephen Colbert Has America by the Ballots |author=Adam Sternbergh |publisher=New York Magazine |date=2006-10-16 |accessdate=2007-10-27 ] He introduced his definition in the first segment of the episode, in the following monologue:

quote|I will speak to you in plain, simple English. And that brings us to tonight's word: 'truthiness.' Now I'm sure some of the 'word police,' the 'wordinistas' over at Webster's are gonna say, 'hey, that's not a word'. Well, anyone who knows me knows I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books.

I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart. And that's exactly what's pulling our country apart today. 'Cause face it, folks; we are a divided nation. Not between Democrats and U.S. Republicans, or conservatives and liberals, or tops and bottoms. No, we are divided between those who think with their head, and those who "know" with their "heart".

Consider Harriet Miers. If you 'think' about it, of course her nomination's absurd. But the president didn't say he 'thought' about his selection. He said this::("video clip of President Bush:") 'I know her heart.'Notice how he said nothing about her brain? He didn't have to. He "feels" the truth about Harriet Miers.

And what about Iraq? If you "think" about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn't taking Saddam out "feel" like the right thing?

When asked in an out-of-character interview with "The Onion"'s A.V. Club for his views on "the 'truthiness' imbroglio that's tearing our country apart", Colbert elaborated on the critique he intended to convey with the word:

quote|Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word…

It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the President because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…

Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I "feel" it to be true, but that "I" feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.

During an interview on December 8, 2006 with Charlie Rose,Charlie Rose (2006-12-08), [ "A conversation with comedian Stephen Colbert"] . Retrieved on 2008-08-14.] Colbert stated:

Coverage by news media

After Colbert's introduction of the term "truthiness", it quickly became widely used and recognized. Six days after Colbert introduced the term, CNN's "Reliable Sources" featured a discussion of "The Colbert Report" by host Howard Kurtz, who played a clip of Colbert's definition of the word. [. It was also used September 23rd 2008 by CNN's American Morning by John Roberts.citenews|url= |title=CNN Reliable Sources |author=Howard Kurtz (transcript) |publisher=CNN |date=2005-10-23 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] On the same day, ABC's "Nightline" also reported on "truthiness", prompting Colbert to respond by saying: "You know what was missing from that piece? Me. Stephen Colbert. But I'm not surprised. "Nightline"'s on opposite me…" [cite web|url=|title= [D1RT] : stephen colbert on...|accessdate=2008-09-19]

Within a few months of its introduction by Colbert, "Truthiness" was discussed in "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", "USA Today", the "San Francisco Chronicle", the "Chicago Tribune", "Newsweek", CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, "Editor & Publisher", "Salon", "The Huffington Post", "Chicago Reader", "CNET", and on ABC's "Nightline", CBS's "60 Minutes", and "The Oprah Winfrey Show".

The February 13, 2006 issue of "Newsweek" featured an article on "The Colbert Report" titled "The Truthiness Teller", recounting the career of the word "truthiness" since its popularization by Colbert.

"The New York Times" coverage and usage

In its October 25, 2005 issue, eight days after the premiere episode of the "Report", "The New York Times" ran its third article on "The Colbert Report", "Bringing Out the Absurdity of the News". [cite news|url= |title=Bringing Out The Absurdity Of the News |author=Allesandra Stanley |publisher=The New York Times |date=2005-10-25 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] The article specifically discussed the segment on "truthiness", although the "Times" misreported the word as "trustiness". In its November 1, 2005 issue, the "Times" ran a correction. On the next episode of the "Report", Colbert took the "Times" to task for the error, pointing out, albeit incorrectly, that "trustiness" is "not even a word". [Many dictionaries (e.g. [ American Heritage] , [ Merriam-Webster] , New Oxford Dictionary of English, etc.) offer definitions for "trustiness".]

In its December 25, 2005 issue, the "New York Times" again discussed "truthiness", this time as one of nine words that had captured the year's zeitgeist, in an article titled "2005: In a Word; Truthiness" by Jacques Steinberg. In crediting "truthiness", Steinberg said, "the pundit who probably drew the most attention in 2005 was only playing one on TV: Stephen Colbert". [cite news|url= |title=2005: In A Word: Truthiness |author=Jacques Steinberg |publisher=The New York Times |date=2005-12-25 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ]

In the January 22, 2006 issue, columnist Frank Rich used the term seven times, with credit to Colbert, in a column titled "Truthiness 101: From Frey to Alito", to discuss Republican portrayals of several issues (including the Samuel Alito nomination, the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and Jack Murtha's Vietnam War record). Rich emphasized the extent to which the word had quickly become a cultural fixture, writing, "The mock Comedy Central pundit Stephen Colbert's slinging of the word 'truthiness' caught on instantaneously last year precisely because we live in the age of truthiness." "Editor & Publisher" reported on Rich's use of "truthiness" in his column, saying he "tackled the growing trend to 'truthiness,' as opposed to truth, in the U.S." [cite news|url= |title='NY Times' Frank Rich Taking Book Leave |author= |publisher=Editor and Publisher |date=2006-01-22 |accessdate=2006-01-23 ]

"The New York Times" published two letters on the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where Stephen Colbert was the featured guest, in its May 3, 2006 edition, under the headline "Truthiness and Power". [cite news|url= |title= Truthiness and Power|author=Gloria D. Howard; William M. Phillian |publisher=The New York Times |date=2006-05-03 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ]

Frank Rich referenced truthiness again in "The New York Times" in 2008, describing the strategy of John McCain's presidential campaign as being "to envelop the entire presidential race in a thick fog of truthiness."cite news|url= |title=Truthiness Stages a Comeback |author=Frank Rich |publisher=The New York Times |date=2008-09-21 |accessdate=2008-09-21 ] Rich explained that the campaign was based on truthiness because "McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates keep repeating the same lies over and over not just to smear their opponents and not just to mask their own record. Their larger aim is to construct a bogus alternative reality so relentless it can overwhelm any haphazard journalistic stabs at puncturing it." Rich also noted, "You know the press is impotent at unmasking this truthiness when the hardest-hitting interrogation McCain has yet faced on television came on " 'The View'." Barbara Walters and Joy Behar called him on several falsehoods, including his endlessly repeated fantasy that Palin opposed earmarks for Alaska. Behar used the word “lies” to his face."

Widespread recognition

Usage of "truthiness" continued to proliferate in media, politics, and public consciousness. On January 5, 2006, etymology professor Anatoly Liberman began an hour-long program on public radio by discussing "truthiness" and predicting that it would be included in dictionaries in the next year or two. [cite web|url= |date=2006-01-05 |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Where words come from ] His prediction seemed to be on track when, the next day, the American Dialect Society announced that "truthiness" was its 2005 Word of the Year, and the website of the "Macmillan English Dictionary" featured "truthiness" as its Word of the Week a few weeks later.cite web|url= |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Word of the Week Archive] "Truthiness" was also selected by "The New York Times" as one of nine words that captured the spirit of 2005. Global Language Monitor, which tracks trends in languages, named "truthiness" the top television buzzword of 2006, and another term Colbert coined with reference to truthiness, "wikiality", as another of the top ten television buzzwords of 2006, the first time two words from the same show have made the list.cite news | url= | title="Truthiness", "Wikiality" named TV words of year | publisher=Reuters | date=August 27, 2006 | accessdate=2007-10-17] cite web | url= | title='Truthiness' and 'Wikiality' Named Top Television Buzzwords of 2006 Followed by 'Katrina', 'Katie,' and 'Dr. McDreamy' | publisher=Global Language Monitor | date=August 27, 2006 | accessdate=2006-08-28 ]

On January 1, 2007, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan released its annual list of words it wants banned from the English language. "Truthiness" was among them, along with other words like "awesome" and celebrity couple nicknames like "Brangelina" and "TomKat". [ [ Lake Superior State University 2007 List of Banished Words] ] In response, on January 8, 2007 Colbert stated that Lake Superior State University was an "attention-seeking second-tier state school". [ [ Colbert Report Episode 3001 (1/8/2006) overview] ] The 2008 List of Banished Words restored "truthiness" to formal usage, in response to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. [ [ Lake Superior State University 2008 List of Banished Words] ]

American Dialect Society's Word of the Year

On January 6, 2006, the American Dialect Society announced that "truthiness" was selected as its 2005 Word of the Year. The Society described its rationale as follows:

In its 16th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted truthiness as the word of the year. First heard on "The Colbert Report", a satirical mock news show on The Comedy Central Channel, truthiness refers to the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. As Stephen Colbert put it, 'I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart.'
Apparently after realizing that "truthiness" was found in the "Oxford English Dictionary", the Society later changed the wording of this press release on their website, from "First heard on "The Colbert Report"…" to "Recently popularized by "The Colbert Report"…"

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year

On December 10, 2006 the Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced that "truthiness" was selected as its 2006 Word of the Year on Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year, based on a reader poll, by a 5–1 margin over the second-place word "google". "We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs", said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. "'Truthiness' is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue." [cite news|url=|title=Colbert's 'truthiness' pronounced Word of the Year|author=Adam Gorlick|publisher=AP/Houston Chronicle|date=2006-12-08] However, despite winning Word of the Year, the word does not appear in the 2006 edition of the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary. In response to this omission, during "The Wørd" segment on December 12, 2006 Colbert issued a new page 1344 for the tenth edition of the Merriam Webster dictionary that featured "truthiness". To make room for the definition of "truthiness," including a portrait of Colbert, the definition for the word "try" was removed with Colbert stating "Sorry, try. Maybe you should have tried harder." He also sarcastically told viewers to 'not' download the new page and 'not' glue it in the new dictionary in libraries and schools.

"New York Times" crossword puzzle

In the June 14, 2008 edition of "The New York Times", the word was featured as 1-across in the crossword puzzle. Colbert mentioned this during the last segment on the June 18 episode of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", and declared himself the "King of the Crossword". [cite web | url= | title=The Daily Show Full Episode | date=2008-06-18 | work=Comedy Central | format=video | accessdate=2008-06-30 ] [cite web | url= | work=Rex Parker does the NYT crossword puzzle (personal blog) | title=Saturday, Jun. 14, 2008 | author=Parker, Rex | date=2008-06-14 | accessdate=2008-06-30]

Use in political and social commentary

James Frey controversy

The "Chicago Tribune" published an editorial in its January 16, 2006 issue titled "The Truthiness Hurts", crediting the rise of "truthiness" as serendipitously providing an apt description of the Oprah Book Club controversy over James Frey's semi-fictional memoir "A Million Little Pieces." [cite news|url=,1,4983997.story?ctrack=1&cset=true |title=The Truthiness Hurts |author=Chicago Tribune editorial board |publisher=The Chicago Tribune |date=2006-01-16 |accessdate=2006-02-01 ] "Truthiness" was also used to describe the controversy over the factual accuracy of Frey's book by "USA Today" in its January 15, 2006 issue, [cite news|url= |title=Truth falls to "Pieces" after suspect memoir |author=Marco R. della Cava |publisher=USA Today |date=2006-01-15 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] by several other publications including "The New York Times," and by the television news program "Nightline" on its October 23 and January 26 editions. [cite news|url=!Q5D0Q5DR1v |title=Truthiness 101: From Frey to Alito |author=Frank Rich |publisher=The New York Times |date=2006-01-22 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ]

Oprah Winfrey also discussed "truthiness" with Frank Rich on her show, in reference to the Frey controversy and the column "Truthiness 101" Rich had recently published in the "New York Times." [cite web|url=|date=2006-01-26 |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Oprah Winfrey Show (transcript) ] They also mentioned Colbert's role in popularizing "truthiness".cite news|url= |title=How Oprahness Trumped Truthiness |author=David Carr |publisher=The New York Times |date=2006-01-30 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ]

On January 27, MSNBC ran a commentary titled "Oprah strikes a blow for truthiness: Do facts really matter? Ask Winfrey, James Frey or Stephen Colbert", making the case that Winfrey's about-face on Frey's book was a "small (and belated) but bold nudge back out of the proud halls of truthiness", but also opportunistic and too little too late. [cite news|url= |title=Oprah strikes a blow for truthiness |author=Jon Bonné |publisher=MSNBC |date=2006-01-27 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ]

In the Canadian Parliament

In 2006, Liberal Party of Canada leadership contender Ken Dryden used "truthiness" as an extensive theme in a speech in the House of Commons. The speech dealt critically with the current government's Universal Child Care Plan.cite web|url= |date=2006-05-04 |accessdate=2007-10-16 |title="Hansard" ] Dryden defined truthiness as "something that is spoken as if true that one wants others to believe is true, that said often enough with enough voices orchestrated in behind it, might even sound true, but is not true."

The transcript of all debates in the House is made available in both official languages; the translators into French chose to render "truthiness" as "fausse vérité" ("false truth").

Further use by Colbert

After introducing "truthiness", Colbert has repeatedly referred to "truthiness" and his original definition of it, both on and outside of "The Colbert Report".

Alleged snubbing by the Associated Press, and Colbert's response

The Associated Press reported on the American Dialect Society's selection of truthiness as the Word of the Year, [cite news|url= |title=Honestly, "truthiness" is selected the word of 2005 |author=Heather Clark |publisher=The Seattle Times / Associated Press |date=2006-01-07 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] including the following comments by one of the voting linguists:

Michael Adams, a professor at North Carolina State University who specializes in lexicology, said "truthiness" means "truthy, not facty". "The national argument right now is, one, who's got the truth and, two, who's got the facts", he said. "Until we can manage to get the two of them back together again, we're not going to make much progress."
On each of the first four episodes of the "Report" after the selection of "truthiness" as "Word of the Year," Colbert lamented that news reports neglected to acknowledge him as the source of the word. On the first of these episodes, he added Michael Adams to his "On Notice" board, and Associated Press reporter Heather Clark, the author of the article, to his "Dead to Me" board. [cite web|url= |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Colbert Report: Videos: On Notice (A Glaring Omission) ] On the third of these episodes, he ranked the AP at the top of the "Threat-Down", [cite web|url= |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Colbert Report: Videos: Threatdown ] one of few entries ever to gain the number one spot in place of bears. On the following episode he called Adams and asked for an apology. Though Adams never apologized, Colbert "accepted" his "apology", but failed to take him "off notice".

Associated Press response to Colbert

On January 13, the first day after the four-day run of criticism of the AP on the "Report," the AP ran a story about "The Colbert Report" being upset about being snubbed by the AP, in an article titled "Colbert: AP the biggest threat to America". [cite news|url= |title=Colbert: AP the biggest threat to America |author=Jake Coyle |publisher=CBS News / Associated Press |date=2006-01-13 |accessdate=2006-11-07 ] As he has in the past, Colbert remained in character in an interview for the story, and used it to further the political satire of "truthiness"; excerpts of the story are:

"…When an AP story about the designation sent coast to coast failed to mention Colbert, he began a tongue-in-cheek crusade, not unlike the kind his muse Bill O'Reilly might lead in all seriousness."

"'It's a sin of omission…' Stephen Colbert told the AP on Thursday….'It's like Shakespeare still being alive and not asking him what "Hamlet" is about,' he said."

"The "Oxford English Dictionary" has a definition for 'truthy' dating back to the 1800s….'The fact that they looked it up in a book just shows that they don't get the idea of truthiness at all,' Stephen Colbert said Thursday. 'You don't look up truthiness in a book, you look it up in your gut.'"

"Though slight, the difference of Colbert's definition and the OED's is essential. It's not your typical truth, but, as "The New York Times" wrote, 'a summation of what [Colbert] sees as the guiding ethos of the loudest commentators on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.'"

"Colbert, who referred on his program to the AP omission as a 'journalistic travesty,' said Thursday that it was similar to the much-criticized weapons of mass destruction reporting leading up to the Iraq War. 'Except,' he said, 'people got hurt this time.'"

On January 14, Clark herself responded in an article titled "Exclusive 'News'—I'm dead to Stephen Colbert". [cite web|url= |date=2006-01-14|accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Exclusive "News": I'm Dead to Stephen Colbert ] She furthered the rise of "truthiness" in published English in conceding, "Truthiness be told, I never had seen "The Colbert Report" until my name graced its 'Dead to Me' board this week….But I will say that I watched Colbert's show for the first time…It was funny. And that's not just truthy. That's a fact."

Arianna Huffington

On January 31, 2006, Arianna Huffington used "truthiness" on the Huffington Post. [cite web|url= |date=2006-01-31 |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=Will America's New Love Affair With the Truth Extend to Bush's SOTU Speech? ] Huffington later appeared as a guest on the March 1, 2006, episode of "The Colbert Report". She challenged Colbert on his claim that he had invented the word "truthiness". During the interview, Colbert declared, "I'm not a truthiness fanatic; I'm truthiness's father." Huffington corrected him, citing Wikipedia, that he had merely "popularized" the term. Regarding her source, Colbert responded: "Fuck Them!" [cite web|url= |date=2006-03-01 |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Colbert Report: Videos (Arianna Huffington) ]

President George W. Bush

At the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, Colbert, the featured guest, described President Bush's thought processes using the definition of truthiness. "Editor and Publisher" used "truthiness" to describe Colbert's criticism of Bush, in an article published the same day entitled "Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner—President Not Amused?" "E&P" reported that the "blistering comedy 'tribute' to President Bush… left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close" and that many people at the dinner "looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting — or too much speaking 'truthiness' to power".cite news|url=|publisher=Editor and Publisher|title=Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner—President Not Amused?|author=E&P Staff|date=April 29, 2006|accessdate=2006-05-07] "E&P" reported a few days later that its coverage of Colbert at the dinner drew "possibly its highest one-day traffic total ever", and published a letter to the editor asserting that "Colbert brought truth wrapped in truthiness". [cite news|url= |title=Tuesday's Letters: Colbert Offensive, Colbert Mediocre, Colbert a Hero, Colbert Vicious, Colbert Brave |author=E&P Staff |publisher=Editor and Publisher |date=2006-05-02 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] On the same weekend, "The Washington Post" and others also referenced this. [cite news|url= |title=Dept. of Truthiness: The Colbert Rapport |author= |publisher=The Washington Post |date=2006-04-30 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] [cite news|url= |title=The truthiness hurts |author=Michael Scherer |publisher=Salon |date=2006-05-01 |accessdate=2006-06-04 ] [cite web|url= |date=2006-04-30 |accessdate=2006-06-04 |title=The Colbert Report: Morley Safer Profiles Comedy Central's "Fake" Newsman ] Writing six months later in a column entitled "Throw The Truthiness Bums Out", "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich called Colbert's after-dinner speech a "cultural primary" and christened it the "defining moment" of the United States' 2006 midterm elections.cite news | url= | publisher=The New York Times | title=Throw the Truthiness Bums Out | first=Frank | last=Rich | authorlink=Frank Rich | date=November 5, 2006 | accessdate = 2006-11-22] cite news | url= | publisher=The Washington Post | title=Bubble Trouble | first=Dan | last=Froomkin | authorlink=Dan Froomkin | date=November 7, 2006 | accessdate = 2006-11-22]

ee also



External links

* [ Video feed of Stephen introducing "Truthiness" on "The Colbert Report"]
* []
* [ "Truthiness: a flash in the pan?"] from Language Log
* [ Macmillan Dictionary on "truthiness"]
* [ Global Language Monitor on Top Television Buzzwords]

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