Must. Remind. Self.. The OED is not an arbiter of, but a chronicler of, English language use.
Every year, the Powers-That-Be lean over the windowsills located high atop their Ivory Towers and cock an ear towards the milling crowds below. When they hear a word they do not recognize being shouted often enough, they dip their quills into wells of octopus ink and inscribe that word on gold-rimmed parchment.
Okay, not really. Actually, it’s only been since 2004 that Oxford has selected a word of the year at all. Judy Pearsall, editorial director at Oxford, explains that a language usage program “collects around 150m words of current English in use each month.” The word in 2013 that has become the most frequent was “selfie.” According to The Guardian,
The word can be traced back to a post on an Australian online forum in 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
So now we can blame Australia for both Crocodile Dundee and the word “selfie”! (Just kidding, mates!)
It is pretty incredible when you see the rise in usage in chart form:
Curious what other words made the shortlist? They are:
binge-watch (“I just binge-watched the entire first season of Orange is the New Black in a single day!”)
bitcoin (“You can try to explain how bitcoin works to me a million times and I will never understand it.”)
bedroom tax (A lot less sexy than it sounds.)
Seriously.. This is an olinguito
schmeat (“Dale! Can you make me another schmeat sammich?”)
You don’t want to know. You clicked it, didn’t you??
showrooming (Best Buy employee: Can I help you? / Literally Everyone: No, thank you….just showrooming.”)
twerk (“Ma! Call the vet! Either the dog’s sick or he’s been watchin’ Miley videos again!”)
Yes, all worthy contenders. But none outshone our navel-gazing, this time, quite literally. As for myself, this is how I take selfies:
*stares at the one selfie till it turns ugly*
Go ahead, judge us by our covers.
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The world lost two influential literary voices this week. Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing, best known for her novel The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday at age 94. And Barbara Park, author of the beloved children’s books featuring her irascible character Junie B. Jones, died Friday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Park was 66.
While it may not seem that these two very different authors have a lot in common, what Park and Lessing shared was a love of vocal women as well as sense of appreciation for life and its transient nature. Park captured what few writers for children manage to do successfully: the energy and curiosity of a girl with a questioning mind. For her part, Lessing was always adjusting the lens. As we get older, the clarity of a Junie B. Jones is harder to maintain, but Lessing asks us to remember, and to seek the authentic in an often exhausting world.
I wonder what Junie B. and Lessing might have to say to each other:
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For a brief week, the Seattle International Film Festival was able to bring Manchester International Festival’s production of Macbeth to the Uptown Theater in Seattle. As a part of a series called National Theater Live (which includes Othello with Adrian Lester and Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller), this production stars the illustrious Kenneth Branagh as the titular Scottish King. I was lucky enough to get tickets to see this thunderous play.
Co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, the production was spectral, but appropriately stark. A lot of the eerie desolation came from the fact that it takes place in a deconsecrated Manchester church. The floors of the church were ripped out, so the stage was a pit of austere earth across which the witches skulked and the Scottish thanes clashed bloodily. Rain was poured unsparingly onto the actors. The dim lighting was the perfect harshness for this sinister play.