The motto for the TruTV channel has always bugged me: Not reality, actuality.

At least from online dictionaries I have looked up these words on, they seem equivalent. The definitions even reference one another.


  1. The state or fact of being actual; reality.
  2. Actual conditions or facts.


  1. The quality or state of being actual or true.
  2. One, such as a person, an entity, or an event, that is actual:
  3. The totality of all things possessing actuality, existence, or essence.
  4. That which exists objectively and in fact.

Is this motto just silly, or is there really some connotation to these words that I am not aware of that makes them distinct?

  • I think the motto uses reality to mean something true, and actuality to mean something actual. An event that happened in the past is reality, and an even that happens in the present is reality, but also actuality.
    – apaderno
    Sep 5, 2010 at 22:01

5 Answers 5


I'm aware of no distinction between the two. It appears that the folks at truTv are trying to distance themselves from "reality tv."

truTV isn't reality, its new slogan states. It's actuality.

"Reality has a connotation of not being real, of being phony," said Marc Juris, executive vice president and general manager of truTV. "We felt that because [our programming] was real, we couldn't call it reality."

From http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/television/2004097354_trutv01.html

  • Reality has a connotation of not being real? I think that guy is unreal. =)
    – JohnFx
    Sep 6, 2010 at 2:33
  • 5
    I'd have gone with stupid, but I'm judgmental. Sep 6, 2010 at 2:38
  • 6
    I think this guy makes perfect sense. He is talking about the extra connotation that is now associated with the term "reality" in the context of TV and video; "reality TV" is often anything but. The word "actuality" has no such connotations associated with it, so the word "actuality" makes you think of "reality" in the general sense, rather than "reality" in the TV sense.
    – Kosmonaut
    Sep 6, 2010 at 14:38
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    @Kosmo: I understand the point he's making, but the words he's using ("because it was real, we couldn't call it reality") make him sound like an ass. Sep 7, 2010 at 0:00
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    What makes this funnier is that this channel has a ton of shows that are re-enactments of supposedly true stories depicted as if they were filming them live. (e.g. Operation Repo)
    – JohnFx
    Nov 18, 2011 at 16:02

I believe there is a distinction quite apparent in journalism:

In sum, "actuality" is regarded as a fundamental criterion of news selection that governs both the mass media's and the individuals' construction of reality.
The shared "actuality" among social members, I suppose, would create a feeling of being present and a moment of participating in a common reality, and, therefore, function as the basis for making up that common reality.

Considering that:

truTV is television's destination for real-life stories told from an exciting and dramatic first-person perspective and features high-stakes, action-packed originals that give viewers access to places and situations they can't normally experience.

, one can understand the goal of TruTv for reporting an "actuality" in order to help the viewers to rebuild the reality of the reported situations.

  • As such, actuality would be more of a denotation for reality, as "serving as an indication of reality".
    – VonC
    Sep 5, 2010 at 21:58

When we see things the way they actually are, this is reality.

Actuality is stronger than reality in that it is something abstract, a fact, that existed even before we knew it was there. It never has been subject to being true or false. Whereas what I see as reality now may have been seen as imaginary before.

  • The following dialog may make my point clear:

    -Do you see that black car over there?

    -Actually, it is not black, it is blue.

    -Let me see. Oh yeah, you are right, it really is blue.


This is a distinction mobilized by certain philosophers like Gilles Deleuze, who uses a phrase from Bergson to define what he calls the 'virtual': he says it is "real without being actual."

However, it is admittedly a somewhat obscure or at the least fairly subtle distinction, and in common usage the difference is minimal and would relate to context.

(In the case of the slogan it is almost certain they are simply referring to reality television, not reality as an ontological principle.)


All the shows are based on real situations with actors and scripts. The slogan is a play on words. It admits the channel is filled with fake shows. It says it is not reality and their actuality word they use is a play on words.

Notice the word act is the first three letters in actuality. So I think the phrase is straight up admitting what the channel is; NOT reality, ACTuality.

  • 1
    Interesting idea... a new (perhaps unintended) eggcorn?
    – Andrew
    Nov 15, 2012 at 8:49
  • Eggcorns by definition are unintended. It's more of a pun I think.
    – Cliddell
    Nov 15, 2012 at 20:50

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