AskDefine | Define doctrinaire

Dictionary Definition

doctrinaire adj : stubbornly insistent on theory without regard for practicality or suitability n : a stubborn person of arbitrary or arrogant opinions [syn: dogmatist]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A person who stubbornly holds to his or her philosophy or opinion regardless of its feasibility.


  1. stubbornly holding on to an idea without concern for practicalities or reality.

Extensive Definition

Truthiness is a word that U.S. television comedian Stephen Colbert popularized in 2005 as a satirical term to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Colbert popularized this definition of the word during the inaugural (pilot) episode (October 17 2005) of his satirical television program The Colbert Report, as the subject of a segment called "The Wørd". It was named Word of the Year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.
By using the term as part of his routine, Colbert sought to satirize the use of appeal to emotion and the "gut feeling" as a rhetorical device in contemporary socio-political discourse. He particularly applied it to U.S. President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Colbert later ascribed truthiness to other institutions and organizations, such as Wikipedia.

Origin of the term

Colbert came up with the word truthiness just moments before taping the premiere episode of The Colbert Report on October 17 2005, after deciding that the originally scripted word—"truth"—was not ridiculous enough. "We're not talking about truth, we're talking about something that seems like truth—the truth we want to exist," he explained. He introduced his definition in the first segment of the episode, in the following monologue: which has a history in literature and appears in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (as a derivation of truthy) and The Century Dictionary, both of which indicate it as rare or dialectal. Colbert's definition of the word was a novel invention, because the OED and The Century Dictionary define it as a variation of straightforward truthfulness. The prior existence of the word was brought to public attention by linguist and OED consultant Benjamin Zimmer.

Rapid adoption by news media

After Colbert's introduction of the term "truthiness", it quickly became widely used and recognized. Within a few months of its introduction by Colbert, "Truthiness" was discussed in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, Editor & Publisher, Salon, The Huffington Post, Chicago Reader, CNET, and on ABC's Nightline, CBS's 60 Minutes, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. The February 13 2006 issue of Newsweek magazine featured an article on The Colbert Report titled "The Truthiness Teller".
On the same day, ABC's Nightline also reported on truthiness, prompting Colbert to respond by saying: "You know what was missing from that piece? Me. Stephen Colbert. But I'm not surprised. Nightlines on opposite me…"

The New York Times coverage

In its October 25, 2005 issue, eight days after the premiere episode of the Report, The New York Times ran its third article on The Colbert Report, penned by Alessandra Stanley and titled "Bringing Out the Absurdity of the News". The article specifically discussed the segment on truthiness, although the Times misreported the word as trustiness. In its November 1, 2005 issue, the Times ran a correction clarifying that the Wørd had been truthiness, not trustiness. On the next episode of the Report, Colbert took the Times to task for the error, pointing out, albeit incorrectly, that trustiness is "not even a word".
In its December 25, 2005 issue, the New York Times again discussed truthiness, this time as one of nine words that had captured the year's zeitgeist, in an article titled "2005: In a Word; Truthiness" by Jacques Steinberg. In crediting truthiness, Steinberg said, "the pundit who probably drew the most attention in 2005 was only playing one on TV: Stephen Colbert".
In the January 22, 2006 issue, columnist Frank Rich used the term truthiness seven times, with credit to Colbert, in a column titled "Truthiness 101: From Frey to Alito", to discuss Republican portrayals of several issues (including the Samuel Alito nomination, the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and Jack Murtha's wartime record). Rich emphasized the extent to which the word truthiness had quickly become a cultural fixture, writing, "The mock Comedy Central pundit Stephen Colbert's slinging of the word 'truthiness' caught on instantaneously last year precisely because we live in the age of truthiness." Editor & Publisher magazine reported on Rich's use of truthiness in his column, saying he "tackled the growing trend to 'truthiness,' as opposed to truth, in the U.S."
The January 30, 2006 issue of the New York Times included an article titled "How Oprahness Trumped Truthiness" by David Carr, although the article itself did not refer to truthiness.
The New York Times published two letters on the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where Stephen Colbert was the featured guest, in its May 3, 2006 edition, under the headline "Truthiness and Power".

Widespread recognition

Usage of "truthiness" continued to proliferate in media, politics, and public consciousness. On January 5, 2006, etymology professor Anatoly Liberman began an hour-long program on public radio by discussing truthiness and predicting that it would be included in dictionaries in the next year or two. His prediction seemed to be on track when, the next day, the American Dialect Society announced that "truthiness" was its 2005 Word of the Year, and the website of the Macmillan English Dictionary featured truthiness as its Word of the Week a few weeks later. Truthiness was also selected by The New York Times as one of nine words that captured the spirit of 2005. Global Language Monitor, which tracks trends in languages, named truthiness the top television buzzword of 2006, and another term Colbert coined with reference to truthiness, wikiality, as another of the top ten television buzzwords of 2006, the first time two words from the same show have made the list.
On January 1, 2007, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan released its annual list of words it wants banned from the English language. "Truthiness" was among them, along with other words like "awesome" and celebrity couple nicknames like "Brangelina" and "TomKat". In response, on January 8, 2007 Colbert stated that Lake Superior State University was an "attention-seeking second-tier state school". The 2008 List of Banished Words restored truthiness to formal usage, in response to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike.

American Dialect Society's Word of the Year

On January 6, 2006, the American Dialect Society announced that truthiness was selected as its 2005 Word of the Year. However, despite winning Word of the Year, the word does not appear in the 2006 edition of the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary. In response to this omission, during "The Wørd" segment on December 12, 2006 Colbert issued a new page 1344 for the tenth edition of the Merriam Webster dictionary that featured "truthiness". To make room for the definition of "truthiness," including a portrait of Colbert, the definition for the word "try" was removed with Colbert stating "Sorry, try. Maybe you should have tried harder." He also sarcastically told viewers to 'not' download the new page and 'not' glue it in the new dictionary in libraries and schools.

Use in political and social commentary

James Frey controversy

The Chicago Tribune published an editorial in its January 16, 2006 issue titled "The Truthiness Hurts", crediting the rise of truthiness as serendipitously providing an apt description of the Oprah Book Club controversy over James Frey's semi-fictional memoir A Million Little Pieces. Truthiness was also used to describe the Frey controversy by USA Today in its January 15 2006 issue, by several other publications including The New York Times, and by the television news program Nightline on its October 23 and January 26 editions.
Oprah Winfrey also discussed truthiness with Frank Rich on her show, in reference to the Frey controversy and the column "Truthiness 101" Rich had recently published in the New York Times. They also mentioned Colbert's role in popularizing "truthiness".

In the Canadian Parliament

In 2006, Liberal Party of Canada leadership contender Ken Dryden used truthiness as an extensive theme in a speech in the House of Commons. The speech dealt critically with the current government's Universal Child Care Plan. Dryden defined truthiness as "something that is spoken as if true that one wants others to believe is true, that said often enough with enough voices orchestrated in behind it, might even sound true, but is not true."
The transcript of all debates in the House is made available in both official languages; the translators into French chose to render "truthiness" as fausse vérité ("false truth"). including the following comments by one of the voting linguists: Michael Adams, a professor at North Carolina State University who specializes in lexicology, said "truthiness" means "truthy, not facty". "The national argument right now is, one, who's got the truth and, two, who's got the facts", he said. "Until we can manage to get the two of them back together again, we're not going to make much progress." On each of the first four episodes of the Report after the selection of truthiness as Word of the Year, Colbert lamented that news reports neglected to acknowledge him as the source of the word. On the first of these episodes, he added Michael Adams to his "On Notice" board, and Associated Press reporter Heather Clark, the author of the article, to his "Dead to Me" board. On the third of these episodes, he ranked the AP at the top of the "Threat-Down", one of few entries ever to gain the number one spot in place of bears. On the following episode he called Adams and asked for an apology. Though Adams never apologized, Colbert "accepted" his "apology", but failed to take him "off notice".

Associated Press response to Colbert

On January 13, the first day after the four-day run of criticism of the AP on the Report, the AP ran a story about The Colbert Report being upset about being snubbed by the AP, in an article titled "Colbert: AP the biggest threat to America". As he has in the past, Colbert remained in character in an interview for the story, and used it to further the political satire of truthiness; excerpts of the story are: "…When an AP story about the designation sent coast to coast failed to mention Colbert, he began a tongue-in-cheek crusade, not unlike the kind his muse Bill O'Reilly might lead in all seriousness." "'It's a sin of omission…' Stephen Colbert told the AP on Thursday….'It's like Shakespeare still being alive and not asking him what Hamlet is about,' he said." "The Oxford English Dictionary has a definition for 'truthy' dating back to the 1800s….'The fact that they looked it up in a book just shows that they don't get the idea of truthiness at all,' Stephen Colbert said Thursday. 'You don't look up truthiness in a book, you look it up in your gut.'" "Though slight, the difference of Colbert's definition and the OED's is essential. It's not your typical truth, but, as The New York Times wrote, 'a summation of what [Colbert] sees as the guiding ethos of the loudest commentators on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.'" "Colbert, who referred on his program to the AP omission as a 'journalistic travesty,' said Thursday that it was similar to the much-criticized weapons of mass destruction reporting leading up to the Iraq War. 'Except,' he said, 'people got hurt this time.'" On January 14, Clark herself responded in an article titled "Exclusive 'News'—I'm dead to Stephen Colbert". She furthered the rise of "truthiness" in published English in conceding, "Truthiness be told, I never had seen The Colbert Report until my name graced its 'Dead to Me' board this week….But I will say that I watched Colbert's show for the first time…It was funny. And that's not just truthy. That's a fact."

Arianna Huffington

On January 31, 2006, Arianna Huffington used truthiness on the Huffington Post. Huffington later appeared as a guest on the March 1, 2006, episode of The Colbert Report. She challenged Colbert on his claim that he had invented the word truthiness. During the interview, Colbert declared, "I'm not a truthiness fanatic; I'm truthiness's father." Huffington corrected him, citing Wikipedia, that he had merely "popularized" the term. Regarding her source, Colbert responded: "loser deviantes."


Also in 2006, after Colbert delivered the commencement speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, he was presented with both an honorary degree and a light purple T-shirt bearing a logo that reads, "Veritasiness Tour", creating a semi-Latinized version of truthiness. The shirt also plays on Knox's motto, which is "Veritas".

President George W. Bush

At the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, Colbert, the featured guest, described President Bush's thought processes using the definition of truthiness. Editor and Publisher used truthiness to describe Colbert's criticism of President Bush, in an article published the same day entitled "Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner—President Not Amused?" E&P reported that the "blistering comedy 'tribute' to President Bush… left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close" and that many people at the dinner "looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting — or too much speaking 'truthiness' to power". E&P reported a few days later that its coverage of Colbert at the dinner drew "possibly its highest one-day traffic total ever", and published a letter to the editor asserting that "Colbert brought truth wrapped in truthiness". On the same weekend, The Washington Post and others also referenced this. Writing six months later in a column entitled "Throw The Truthiness Bums Out", New York Times columnist Frank Rich called Colbert's after-dinner speech a "cultural primary" and christened it the "defining moment" of the United States' 2006 midterm elections.

See also

doctrinaire in Dutch: Truthiness
doctrinaire in Simple English: Truthiness

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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