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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : November 24, 2015

Oxford Dictionaries announces 'word of the year' and it is not a word

Every year Oxford Dictionaries selects a 'word of the year' that will enter into its hallowed pages for the very first time. This year's word has been announced - except it is not a word, it's an emoji.

by Helen Leggatt

It seems that even the hallowed pages of the Oxford Dictionary can not escape the explosion of emoji culture.

In 2013, 'selfie' was 'word of the year', followed by vape in 2014. This year's 'word of the year' is an emoji - not the word emoji, but an actual image of a yellow face expressing 'tears of joy'. (I had actually thought it stood for 'crying with laughter')

"You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication," said Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries (owned by Oxford University Press).

"It's not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps--it's flexible, immediate and infuses tone beautifully. As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders."

I like to move with the times, but an emoji? Really? I have no words.

There were better contenders among other words shortlisted for 'word of the year' such as Brexit, dark web or ad blocker. Or, perhaps, I'm being slightly short-sighted and should, instead, recognize that emojis are a trend that is showing us how language is evolving in a changing society.

Research conducted by TalkTalk Mobile and the University of Bangor earlier this year found that emoji are being used more today than ever before in messaging on mobile and social. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those involved in the study said they use emoji more now than they did a year ago. Furthermore, 80% said they use emoji regularly.

Linguistics professor Vyv Evans, of Bangor University, said that while emoji won't replace traditional languages any time soon, they do help enhance messaging as they are "universally recognizable".

Tags: emoji, language, trends

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