Trend Watch

Conway: 'Alternative Facts'

Lookups for 'fact' spiked after Kellyanne Conway described false statements as 'alternative facts'


Fact (“a piece of information presented as having objective reality”) spiked dramatically on January 22nd, following an exchange between Chuck Todd and Kellyanne Conway on NBC’s Meet the Press that was fraught with epistemological tension.

You're saying it's a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary is giving alternative facts to that," Conway shot back.

"Wait a minute, alternative facts? Alternative facts — four of the five facts he uttered, the one that he got right was Zeke Miller, four of the five facts he uttered are not true. Alternative facts are not facts — they're falsehoods," Todd replied.
—Maxwell Tani, businessinsider.com, 22 Jan. 2017

Lookups for 'fact' spiked after Kellyanne Conway used the phrase "alternative facts."

There are three obsolete senses of fact in English. Two of these senses are no longer used:

  1. a wrong or unlawful deed

  2. a meritorious or valorous deed

  3. an action in general

Fact meaning "a wrong or unlawful deed" is rare, but is still used in the phrase "after the fact."

In contemporary use, fact is generally understood to refer to something with actual existence, or presented as having objective reality.

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