As pundits agree, backed by none less than Potus himself, ours is the Era of Fake News. With so many political candidates for 2017 Word of the Year, fake news (or just plain fake, as in fake media), remains among the most likely.
Of course, since Potus wasn’t named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, but rather his sworn adversaries, the army of #MeToo “silence breakers” were, fake news might conjure up opposition rather than take the prize on January 5, when members and friends of the American Dialect Society meet in Salt Lake City to make their choice.
But in case it dissipates in response to such liberal resistance, let’s give fake news a chance here to show its stuff.
Consider how much attention fake news has earned, even though false news was well established as an equally valid designation. If anything, “well established” is an understatement. Look at Google Ngrams for “false news” and “fake news":
The Corpus of Contemporary American English, located at Brigham Young University, has 20 million words for every year 1990-2017. Needless to say, it is rich with 2017 examples of fake news.
You’ll also find plentiful examples of false news since the 17th century, but scarcely a mention of fake news. Google Ngrams stops its comparison in 2008, when fake news was still nowhere in sight.
Though false news and fake news have essentially the same meaning, so that they can readily be substituted one for the other, they are words apart in their connotations. False news implies almost an apology that the news wasn’t properly presented, and that writer and publisher need to improve the news by making it true.
Fake news, on the other hand, is in your face. There’s no inclination to correct it by substituting true for false; it’s just plain deliberate fakery, an evil purveyor of untruths.
And that’s why fake news is my Word of the Year 2017. Voters coming to Salt Lake, I dare you to make that choice.