As expected, there were a few surprises in store for us as we pored through your submissions for our first Word of the Year online survey. Either the vast majority of you out there in the Merriam-Webster online community are big fans of The Colbert Report, or Time Magazine was right on target when it honored the show’s host Stephen Colbert earlier this year as one of the most influential people of 2006. By an overwhelming 5 to 1 majority vote, our visitors have awarded top honors to a word Colbert first introduced on “The Word” segment of his debut broadcast on Comedy Central back in October 2005. Soon after, this word was chosen as the 16th annual Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society, and defined by them as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”
Beauty Is Truthiness, Truthiness Beauty …
… that is all ye know on earth, and if ye need to know anything else, Stephen Colbert, 42, will tell ye what to think. On Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report (silent t, both words), he plays a vain, blustery political pundit, and neither politics nor punditry emerges unscathed. In the first episode, he coined the term truthiness to embody his belief that facts are far less important than what you want to be true. “You don’t look up truthiness in a book,” he declared. “You look it up in your gut.”
Truthiness resonated beyond Colbert’s satire in an era of phony memoirs and reality TV. And to people who feel the Administration chooses gut (and spin) over facts, his acerbic speech “praising” the President at the White House correspondents’ dinner became pop legend. Citing Bush’s cratering job-approval rating, the in-character Colbert argued, “Does that not also logically mean that 68% of Americans approve of the job he’s not doing?” Whatever you’re doing, or not doing, Mr. Colbert, keep it up.
So to honor Stephen’s departure from Comedy Central and the end of “The Colbert Report”, our “Rant of the Week” presents his first and last words.