Word of 2018: Misinformation

The word of the year for 2018 speaks to the times we live in. Every year, candidates for Word of the Year are debated and one is eventually chosen that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.

Chosen by Dictionary.com 2018’s word of the year is misinformation. Misinformation is defined as “false information that is spread, whether there is the intent to mislead”.

Example: In the chaotic hours after the shooting, a lot of misinformation was reported in the news.

Another example involves false information found on the Internet. One of the most popular forms of misinformation on the Internet, especially via e-mail, is the passing along of urban legends. Urban legends are fabricated or untrue stories that are passed along by sincere people who believe them…and feel the need to “inform” others. Here’s a personal example: Many parents (including my own) spread misinformation they thought was genuinely helpful (and true) on young girls barely escaping being a murder victim when a man in a shopping mall (always a mall) asks for assistance in finding his car. For some unknown reason never addressed in the myth, when the care is located the man opens his car trunk, which is full of saws, ropes, chloroform, and other ghastly devices. There are always extreme holes in the stories, as the would-be killer opening his trunk. According to the Dictionary.com organization, spreading misinformation has become rampant in recent years. In this sharply divided nation, the misinformation has also become more political. Instead of serial killers in mall parking lots, Hilary Clinton was accused of kidnapping, molesting, and trafficking children in the back rooms of the Comet Ping Pong Pizza Restaurant, much to the surprise and horror of Comet Ping Pong Pizza owners.

Misinformation should not be confused with the word disinformation. Disinformation is defined as “false information that is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media”.

Both of these words figure prominently in the continued proliferation of ‘fake news’, the word of the year for 2017.

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