‘Fake news’ was just named the official word of the year, or was it?
After a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring inside a Washington D.C. restaurant resulted in a North Carolina man taking a gun in to “investigate,” it seemed inevitable that “fake news” would define 2016.
And now it’s official, with the word being chosen as Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year. If you don’t laugh, you might cry.
Pronounced “fayk ‘nyoohz” (for those of you who just returned from Mars), the word became notorious after debates about bogus websites publishing false or hyper-partisan news on social media blew up in 2016. America is now learning what it’s like to deal with a political administration that routinely spreads fake news itself.
The dictionary defines the plural noun as “disinformation and hoaxes published on websites for political purposes or to drive web traffic, the incorrect information being passed along by social media.”
Susan Butler, editor of Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary, told Mashable the committee looks at two main concerns when choosing the word of the year: A clever coinage, something that involves a bit of word play, and also a word that’s socially significant.
“In that category, they thought that ‘fake news’ was the thing that had the most far reaching consequences for us all,” she explained. “Having the facts right is the bed rock of news publishing, and suddenly we’re in a world where anyone can claim to have the facts.”
For those of you that come at the dictionary complaining that “fake news” actually two words, you’re wrong. That’s fake news, as it were.
Let Butler explain: “The most common way in which English forms new words is by taking two separate words and smashing them together. In the past, this togetherness may have been recognised by a hyphen or one solid word, but more recently, the tendency has been for English to throw out punctuation of all sorts.”
This is what linguists call a “lexical unit.” You may know what “fake” is and what “news” is, but you can’t necessarily work out the meaning of the compound. It’s more than the sum of its parts, and that’s why it’s in the dictionary.
Runner up words included “halal snack pack” a word and culinary concept that has yet to make to it big globally.
A mix of hot chips and halal doner kebab meat, along with garlic, chilli and barbecue sauces, a combo affectionally known as “the holy trinity,” the word has also become symbolic of a type of cheeky, affectionate multiculturalism.
The halal snack pack combines foods of significance to both Australia’s Muslim and Anglo communities, and even caused a minor political altercation between Labor politician Sam Dastyari and right wing Senator Pauline Hanson.
According to Dastyai, halal snack pack was “robbed.”
“Enby” was another chosen by the committee. A term for someone who doesn’t identify as male of female, they wrote that “Enby is an interesting construction; it has moved from the abbreviation NB (for non-binary) to a word in its own right.”