News archive November 2015

Nov 20 2015

The word of the year 2015? Erm…

Cue the drum roll! Lay down the red carpet! THE word of the year for 2015 is here!

Only, well, it’s not quite a word. This year’s winner of the “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015”, piping the other 8 shortlisted words to the post, is snappily known as the “Face with Tears of Joy Emoji”. Familiar to most thanks to the takeover of smartphones, digital chat and the likes of WhatsApp, an emoji, as defined by the dictionary itself, is “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication“. Their use rocketed in 2015, says the Oxford Dictionary, but this one topped the charts globally, taking a slice of the emoji pie worth a whopping 20% in the UK.

So what does this say about the state of language today? Was no “word” good enough to overtake an emoji? What does this say about the way we use language and communicate with one another? Perhaps this is additional evidence to support the theory that a picture really is worth a thousand words. There is no need to translate it, that’s for sure. It is instant, can be understood across cultures and languages worldwide, and requires minimal typing effort (even less than the initialism “lol”): all factors that no doubt have contributed to its success in expressing an explosion of joy and laughter in messages across the globe. No need to translate it? Surely we don’t usually translate laughter, I hear you say. In fact, even a simple expression of laughter changes when written down in different languages and, therefore, requires translation if you want the message to hit home. For example, the Spanish might “jajaja” while the Brazilians “rsrsrs” and the Brits “haha” (see more here Remember that, the next time you want to show your appreciation of another culture’s humour.

As for the word of the year, perhaps you would have preferred the endearing term for Britain’s possible exit from the European Union, or perhaps the grammarians among you would have cheered for the progressive use of the gender-neutral “they” to refer to a single person (male or female), or maybe you are more of the sharing and caring type and like the idea of a “sharing economy” – whatever your language tastes, there is a new term for you to enjoy among those shortlisted.

To find out more, take a look at the article on the Oxford English Dictionary’s blog:

In the meantime, let us know what you think: should we jump for joy in the face of innovation and developments in communication techniques, or weep in a quiet corner at the loss of language as it once was? Tears of sadness or tears of joy?


Further reading:

“RIP to LOL – the history of laughing out loud”—the-history-of-laughing-out-loud


“Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015”

“Laughter – Is it universal?”

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