While the rest of the world is shaken by Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, heightened security worldwide and more bombings in Syria, Oxford English Dictionary has given the high-tech connected types and wannabes something to smile about.
For the first time, the Oxford Dictionaries “Word of the Year” is a picture. It’s the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji. Oxford English Dictionary picked it because it “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015.”
The Oxford word of the year in 2014 was “vape.” The verb means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Both the e-cigarette and the action can called a vape. The associated noun is vaping. E-cigarettes use, particularly among young people, has become more common, causing “vape” to surface as a popular word.
This year is different, although Oxford Dictionaries is still leaning more toward the youth culture.
“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,” Oxford noted on its website. There is even a quiz on the webpage that people take to show how well they know their emoji.
Oxford University Press partnered with Swiftkey to determine the most popular emoji. The Face with Tears of Joy stood out as the most globally used emoji in 2015.
It constituted 17 percent of all emoji used in the United States and 20 percent in the United Kingdom in 2015. That’s up from 9 percent in the U.S. and 4 percent in the UK just a year earlier.
“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,” the website reports.
Oxford notes that emoji have been embraced and used by people in different age groups, not just texting teens. It cites Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of emojis, asking: “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” Clinton got quite a lot of responses.
Emojis enable people to communicate in a nonverbal manner, crossing all language barriers. Oxford calls emoji a loanword from Japanese. The English word is emoticon, combining the words emotion and icon. They have been used for years in computer messaging. Texting has opened a new frontier for emoji use and sharing.
Oxford asks people to pick from a list of emojis as the “Word of the Year” they might have preferred.
With the aid of emojis, more and more people may be meeting face to face less and less, and actually conversations may become a remember-way-back-when topic. But you can bet that there soon could be an emoji for that, too.