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Another Year, Another Depressing Word to Define It

Hello, misinformation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 26, 2018 9:45 AM CST
This screen image released by Dictionary.com shows an entry for the word "misinformation," which Dictionary.com announced as its 2018 word of the year.   (Dictionary.com via AP)

(Newser) – "Misinformation," as opposed to "disinformation," was chosen Monday as Dictionary.com's word of the year on the tattered coattails of "toxic," picked earlier this month for the same honor by Oxford Dictionaries. Jane Solomon, a linguist-in-residence at Dictionary.com, says that her site's choice of "mis" over "dis" was deliberate, intended to serve as a "call to action" to be vigilant in the battle against fake news, flat-earthers, and anti-vaxxers, among other conduits. The company wanted to highlight the idea of intent, whether to inadvertently or intentionally mislead. "Misinformation has been around for a long time, but ... the rise of social media has really, really changed how information is shared," Solomon tells the AP. "Understanding the concept of misinformation is vital to identifying misinformation as we encounter it in the wild, and that could ultimately help curb its impact."

In studying lookups on the site that trended this year, Dictionary noticed "our relationship with truth is something that came up again and again," she says. For example, the word "mainstream" popped up a lot, spiking in January as the term "mainstream media," or MSM, grew to gargantuan proportions, wielded as an insult by some on the political right. Other words swirling around the same problem included a lookup surge in February for "white lie" after Hope Hicks, then White House communications director, admitted to telling a few for President Trump. The word "Orwellian" surfaced in heavy lookups in May, after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders accused China of "Orwellian nonsense." Dictionary.com has busied itself adding new entries for "filter bubble," ''fake news," ''post-fact," ''post-truth," and "homophily," among others. Dictionary.com chose "complicit" as last year's word of the year. In 2016, it was "xenophobia."

(Read more Word of the Year stories.)

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