updated 1/7/2006 12:50:14 AM ET 2006-01-07T05:50:14

A panel of linguists has decided the word that best reflects 2005 is “truthiness,” defined as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.

The American Dialect Society chose the word Friday after a runoff with terms related to Hurricane Katrina, such as “Katrinagate,” the scandal erupting from the lack of planning for the monster hurricane.

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 make much progress.”

The group of linguists, editors and academics agreed the most useful word was “podcast” — a digital feed containing audio or video files for downloading to an MP3 player.

In a runoff for the most creative word, “whale tail,” the appearance of a thong above the waistband, beat out “muffin top,” the bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-riding jeans.

‘Jump the couch’ honored
Tom Cruise became the first public figure in the contest’s 16 years to be noted for his influence on public discourse. The group coined the term “Cruiselex” to describe such terms as “jump the couch” and “Cruisazy.”

“Jump the couch,” meaning to exhibit strange or frenetic behavior, won the best Tom Cruise-related word or phrase. It stems from the actor’s antics in May on Oprah Winfrey’s couch as he talked about his love for fiancee Katie Holmes. “Cruisazy” means to exhibit crazy behavior.

“I don’t know any other public figure who has inspired so many words in a single year,” said Erin McKean, editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Other winners included “sudoku,” a Japanese number puzzle voted the word most likely to succeed, and “pope squatting,” the practice of registering an online domain that is the name of the new pope in order to profit from it, as least likely to succeed.

Last year’s overall winner was “red, blue and purple states.” In the 2004 general election, voters in red states favored Republicans, those in blue states favored Democrats and residents of purple states were undecided.

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