The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is an Emoji

The Oxford Dictionaries is having a laugh about this year’s word of the year, which Oxford University Press chose in collaboration with mobile technology business Swiftkey. They agreed on naming the “Face With Tears of Joy” emoji (perhaps better known as the “LOL” emoji) as the word of the year, after learning that since 2014, the emoji’s use has increased from 4% to 20% in the UK, and made up 17% of the emoji used in the US.

Each year, Oxford’s selection team, comprised of lexicographers and consultants to the dictionary team, choose the “word” that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of that year. They explain on their website that the choice of an emoji this year was natural, as emoji culture has become mainstream in 2015, and is no longer “the preserve of texting teens.” In fact, these days you can even use emoji to reach out to Hilary Clinton or to order Dominos.

Emoji have been gaining popularity since 1999, when Japanese telecommunications planner Shigetaka Kurita invented them, and named them after the Japanese word for pictures “e-” and the word for character “moji.” Although Oxford Dictioniaries have chosen the “Face With Tears of Joy” emoji as their word of the year, they will not be adding any emoji to their databases. The word emoji has been in both Oxford Dictionaries and the Oxford English Dictionary since 2013.

Casper Grathwohl, president of the Oxford Dictionaries, said about their choice: “You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication. … As a result, emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders. They can serve as insightful windows through which to view our cultural preoccupations, so it seemed appropriate [to select] one as this year’s ‘word’ of the year.”

This years shortlist for the word of the year included the following:

DarkWeb, 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.

lumbersexual, noun: a young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and checked shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle.

on fleek, adjective (usually in phrase on fleek): extremely good, attractive or stylish.

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