'Fake news' added to dictionary

Commentary: Dictionary.com's lexicographers add new words and phrases to reflect our times. Please welcome "fake news" and "kompromat."

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

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Trump Supporters Rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC

Some fake news analysts in action.

Andrew Lichtenstein

We learn so much so quickly these days.

We learn that facts can be alternative and there can be several different rights. And we learn that Russians can try to swing elections by devious online means, with Facebook either realizing or not realizing what's going on

So the lexicographers at Dictionary.com have to hurry themselves along and make sure that their language bible stays up to date with all our new learnings.

On Thursday, the site said it's adding new words, each of which is a reflection of our times.

Please offer a warm welcome to "fake news." It will be defined as: "false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc."

Some might say fake news doesn't just appear online, but is often spouted verbally by, say, public figures, political movements, companies etc. It's just that with the web offering such instant results, it seems that the effects of fake news are now -- at least, to some extent -- identifiable.

Dictionary.com also added another new and very topical word: "kompromat." Yes, Russian words have now invaded the English language. 

Dictionary.com's definition?: "Compromising and incriminating material that is sometimes forged or fabricated, used to sabotage or discredit a political opponent or public figure and ultimately destabilize society by causing extreme doubt and cynicism."

It's as if all the new incursions into our language seem to revolve around the popular tech industry concept of societal disruption.

Indeed, another first time entrant is "false flag." To be defined as: "an attack or other hostile action that obscures the identity of the participants carrying out the action while implicating another group or nation as the perpetrator."

I find myself rather perturbed by all this. Aren't there any happy, socially unifying new words to add? 

"Our last new words update was filled with more fun words and slang  -- like 'friendiversary' and 'dabbing' -- and this latest update just happens to reflect some of the more serious issues that are on Americans' minds as of late," a Dictionary.com spokeswoman told me.

Recently, Merriam-Webster also reflected some of our miserable times, adding "troll," "alt-right and "ransomware" to its collection.

And so we must stay dour for now.

Indeed, the dictionary also included a new note about the "alt-right" -- an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism -- to explain that "'alt-right' is a euphemism." The note "will also discuss the guidance from the AP and other publications to avoid using "alt-right" or to use it only with a qualifier ('the so-called alt-right')."

Perhaps we need to start creating new, happy words to help the dictionary lead us to a brighter day. Apple has given us a start with Animoji

How about "offlining": The deliberate act of disconnecting from the web and actually enjoying yourself?

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