During the very first Colbert Report show on October 17, 2005, the witty faux Conservative media pundit Stephen Colbert unleashed the word truthiness on the world. (Click here to see the video on the Colbert Nation website.)
He introduced it like this:
“On this show your voice will be heard...in the form of my voice. ‘Cause you’re looking at a straight-shooter, America. I tell it like it is. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. I will speak to you in plain simple English.
And that brings us to tonight's word: Truthiness.
Now I’m sure some of the Word Police, the wordanistas over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word.’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true, or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don't trust books. They’re all fact, no heart.”
In that brilliant bit, Colbert captured the nature of much of today’s political rhetoric and punditry. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter what “the truth” is. Whatever is consistent with what you believe to be true is “the truth.”
For example, as a huge fan of Stephen Colbert, I believe he coined the word truthiness.
Oh sure, there are some elitist egghead language experts who have noted that the word truthiness already existed before Colbert uttered it and that uses of the word date back to the early 1800s.
Indeed, there’s a series of posts about this on the Language Log, a popular hangout for snooty linguists.
The so-called “facts” in those posts supposedly “prove” Stephen Colbert may have popularized the word truthiness but didn’t actually coin it.
The wordanista who started pushing this absurd claim appears to be Ben Zimmer, producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, language columnist for The Boston Globe and former “On Language” columnist for The New York Times.
As Colbert might say [loudly, while shaking his fist], “Damn you, Zimmer!”
Your nonsensical facts will never shake my belief in the truthiness of my belief that Stephen Colbert coined the word truthiness!
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