The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2015 is…
That’s right – for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is a pictograph: ?, officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji, though you may know it by other names. There were other strong contenders from a range of fields, outlined below, but ? was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.
Why was this chosen?
As Oxford Dictionaries explains, Emojis (the plural can be either emoji or emojis) have been around since the late 1990s, but 2015 saw their use, and use of the word emoji, increase hugely.
? was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015, making 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.
A brief history of emoji
An emoji is ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’. The term itself is a loanword from Japanese, and comes from e ‘picture’ + moji ‘letter, character’. The similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use.
Emojis are no longer the preserve of texting teens – instead, they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers. Even Hillary Clinton solicited feedback in the form of emojis, and ? has had notable use from celebrities and brands alongside everyone else.
The Word of the Year shortlist
What other words did Oxford Dictionaries consider, you ask?
- Ad blocker, noun: A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.
- Brexit, noun: A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, from British + exit.
- Dark Web, noun: The part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.
- On fleek, adjectival phrase: Extremely good, attractive, or stylish.
- Lumbersexual, noun: 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.
- Refugee, noun: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
- Sharing economy, noun: An economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.
- They (singular), pronoun: Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex.
My money would have been on that last one, mind you…
Read the full post on Oxford Dictionaries, and learn more about the Word of the Year shortlist, including the reasons they were chosen.