Colbert used the word on his debut episode in October 17, 2005, when he
defined "truthiness" as truth that wouldn't stand to be held back by facts. The
word caught on, and in January, 2006 the American Dialect Society named "truthiness"
the word of the year.
However, Colbert's claimed to the word was declared "untrue" by Michael Adams,
professor at North Carolina State University who specializes in lexicology. He
revealed that the Oxford Dictionary has a definition for "truthy" dating back to
the 1800s. It's defined as "characterized by truth" and includes the derivation
"truthiness." He further stated "truthiness" means "truthy, not facty."
Unwilling to listen to their allegation, Colbert stated "The fact that they
looked it up in a book just shows that they don't get the idea of truthiness at
all. You don't look up truthiness in a book, you look it up in your gut."
Excerpt from October, 17, 2006 show:
And on this show, 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.
Follow-up commentary by Stephen Colbert:
Before we go, I want to say something about the first "Word" from the first ever
broadcast of this show. Jimmy, roll the tape.
[We see and hear] "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.' "
[Colbert continues] Turns out I underestimated those wordanistas. On Friday the
American Dialect Society chose truthiness as the 2005 Word of the Year
(applause), beating words like podcast and Katrinagate. We kicked their asses.
And I've never been so honored and insulted at the same time.
You see the Associated Press article announcing this prestigious award, written
by one Heather Clark, had a glaring omission: me. I'm not mentioned, despite the
fact that truthiness is a word I pulled right out of my keister. Instead of
coming to me, here's where Ms. Clark got the definition.
Quote: Michael Adams, a professor at North Carolina State University who
specializes in lexicology, said "truthiness" means "truthy, not facty."
First of all, I looked him up. He's not a professor, he's a visiting associate
professor. And second, it means a lot more than that, Michael. I don't know what
you're getting taught over there in English 201 and 324 over at Tompkins Hall,
Wolfpack. But it isn't truthiness.
You know what? Bring out the board, bring out the board. [Stagehand brings out
"On Notice" board, with entries including "Black hole at center of galaxy," "E
Street Band," "grizzly bears," "Bob Woodruff," "the Toronto Raptors," "The
British Empire," "business casual," and "Barbara Streisand."]
Visiting associate professor Michael Adams: you, sir, are on notice. OK,
somebody's gotta go. E Street Band, this is your lucky day. [Colbert pulls out
card for "E Street Band," and replaces it with "Michael Adams."]
OK, there it is. Deal with it.
But the real culprit here is so-called reporter Heather Clark. This is her
sleaziest piece of yellow journalism since "New Mexico Poll Watchers See Smooth
Election Day." Now I already tore her a new one for that. Heather Clark, you are
dead to me.
Let's bring out the board. [Stagehand brings out "Dead To Me" board, with the
entries "CNN en Español," "cast of Friends," "owls," "screw-cap wines," "bowtie
pasta," "California's 50th district," "New York intellectuals," and "men with
Get ready, Heather. Get ready, brace yourself. [Colbert adds card for "Heather
Clark" to the board.] How does that feel? Does that sting? Now that you're dead
to me, you're gonna wish you were never born.
I'm sorry you had to see that, nation. But in the interest of truthiness, it had
to be done. Good night.