Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

The Truthiness of Wikiality

alphaDictionary carries a growing list of sniglets, words that are not in the dictionary but should be, words for things that have no name but should (click here to see our list). The idea originated with comedian Rich Hall in one of the earliest news spoofs, Not Necessarily the News (1986-88).

The idea was that there are things in the world around us that we cannot talk about because there are no words for them. Hall focused on the funny ones, like elbonics, the actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater and aquadextrous, possessing the ability to turn the bathtub tap on and off with your toes.

The Washington Post‘s Annual Style Invitational picked up the tradition in the 90s, contributing such gems as hipatitis, terminal coolness and sarchasm, the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

The web has spawned several sites that attempt to push forward this tradition but now Stephen Colbert is contributing sniglets in his ‘The Word’ segment of his Comedy Central news spoof, The Colbert Report. Two of Colbert’s (writers’) contributions that many people find appealing are truthiness and Wikiality.

Truthiness is truth unencumbered by facts, truth by intuition, seen in people’s eyes rather than their actions. The word has the ring of authenticity to it since truthy would mean either “having truth” or “like truth”.

Wikiality has a meaning that is a bit more subtle: “reality approved by a majority”, the way articles get into the Wikipedia. Often the in the US the majority is merely the majority of the TV producers, as we saw in the recent TV coverage of the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case–truthiness in TV entertainment Wikiality for a couple of weeks.

At least we are building a vocabulary for discussing the amoeboid world we live in. Fewer and fewer of the concepts that surround us go unnamed. Maybe the day of the sniglets has returned and the web will be a conduit for a new era for them.

One Response to “The Truthiness of Wikiality”

  1. Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog » Blog Archive » Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year: ‘Truthiness’ Says:

    […] Merriam-Webster’s marketing team just posted the M-W word of the year, Steven Colbert’s comic invention, truthiness. Even though the word appears 1.6 million times on the Web and, according to M-W spokespeople it was the 5-1 choice of those who chose to vote, I find the choice puzzling. […]

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