There is a perception that the editors of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED) are stodgy — walking around in neatly pressed Oxford shirts and cardigan wool sweaters, a trail of smoke from their pipes tracing their steps through ornately-carved oak-paneled rooms, pontificating on the virtues of the Victorian English vocabulary and the Oxford comma. But alas, based on their recent selections for “Word of the Year” those cheeky lexicographers, eager to cast off any perceptions about being anachronism, are embracing technology and social media in an effort to be cool. If you were to peer into their office window, you would find them vaping (2014), taking selfies (2013), and texting giddily, using those cute little emojis, especially the “face with tears of joy” 😂 (2015) — because a picture, as you know, says a thousand words.
Yes, it’s hard to believe that the editors of the OED (who put “diction” into the dictionary) have selected an emoji, a picture, for “Word of the Year” — the face with tears of joy emoji. Blasphemous! But there you have it — technology, like a worm gnawing away through a precious book, is slowly ruining the beautiful English language. 😦
Sidestepping the paradox of selecting a picture for “Word of the Year,” the editors explain their selection process: “This year Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and 😂 was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015. SwiftKey identified that 😂 made up 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4% and 9% respectively in 2014. The word emoji has seen a similar surge: although it has been found in English since 1997, usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.”
Words that were considered for “Word of the Year” include these contenders (and note they are real words):
Brexit: A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the UK from the European Union. A portmanteau word (British + exit).
Dark Web: Refers to the part of the Internet that cannot be found with search engines; it is only accessible through special software, allowing a user to remain anonymous.
On fleck (adjectival phrase): Extremely good, attractive, or stylish. This word was coined by Kayla Newman in October 2014, introduced via a video that went viral.
Lumbersexual: A young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and check shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle (Monty Python was prescient with its “I’m a lumberjack and I’m all right” song). A portmanteau word (lumberjack + metrosexual).
Refugee: A person forced to leave their home country to escape natural disaster, war, or persecution.
Sharing economy: An economic system whereby assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, generally by means of the Internet.
They (singular, pronoun): Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex (i.e., an individual who identify as neither female or male.) They complements the gender neutral honorific Mx.
For further reading: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/11/word-of-the-year-2015-emoji/