'Truthiness' Is Basically a Real Word Now

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This Sunday marks the five-year anniversary of the premiere of The Colbert Report, which means it will also be five years since Stephen Colbert first looked into a camera and intoned the word "truthiness." This week, in the "On Language" column of The New York Times Magazine, Ben Zimmer looks back on a half decade of "truthiness"--the word, not the concept. Though Colbert says he plucked it out of the air, trying to find "a silly word that would feel wrong in your mouth," the term has since been accepted into the mainstream American lexicon.

Regardless of its pre-Colbert history, truthiness in its satirical new meaning charmed many a wordinista. A few months after its debut on “The Colbert Report,” at the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society (A.D.S.) in Albuquerque, it was selected as the 2005 Word of the Year ... It has even entered the latest edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary, published earlier this year, with Colbert explicitly credited in the etymology.

Zimmer goes on to note that authors and columnists have paid homage to "truthiness" by coining new words with similar constructions: "fame-iness," "referenciness," "proofiness." A research team at Indiana University has started a project to track the spread of "political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution" on Twitter. That project's name? Truthy.

Of course, for proof that "truthiness" has become inextricably a part of the way we live now, one really need look no further than the following clip:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.