German Linguists: ‘Alternative Facts’ Are the Non-Word of 2017

Each year a Darmstadt University panel singles out a phrase that it feels runs counter to the principles of democracy or human dignity.

  • Published 16 January 2018
German linguists have declared the phrase “alternative facts,” popularized by White House aide Kellyanne Conway, the non-word of 2017.Conway used the phrase last year when asked why President Donald Trump’s then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer mischaracterized the size of the inauguration crowd.

A team of six language experts at Darmstadt University chose “alternative facts” from among 684 suggestions.

German news agency dpa quoted the head of the panel as saying Tuesday the phrase represents the growing practice of “replacing factual arguments with claims that cannot be proven.”

Each year the panel singles out a phrase that runs counter to the principles of democracy or human dignity. Last year it chose the German term “Volksverraeter,” roughly “traitor to one’s people,” used by far-right groups to label politicians who they disagree with.

German linguists: ‘Alternative facts’ the non-word of 2017