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*
Don’t know what FOMO stands for? Yeah, me either. (Psst… old folks! It means, “Fear of Missing Out.”) Good thing it is one of the sixty-five new entries in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. As you will see, many of them are from the virtual world. Among my favorites, which originated on Reddit, is TL;DR (Too long; did not read.) Some of this year’s entries have met with howls of outrage among the literati, but we would all do well to remember the wise counsel of Jorge Luis Borges who said that “language is not, as we are led to suppose by the dictionary, the invention of academicians or philologists. Rather, it has been evolved through time…by peasants, by fishermen, by hunters, by riders.” Say that over and over to yourself when you understand that ”twerk” is now an officially recognized word:
[no object] informal
Here are a few of those new entries. Do you know your emoji from your omnishambles? WELL, DO YOU?