Language is Dead – An Emoji is the “Word” of the Year

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WOTY-emojiOxford Dictionaries, custodians of the English language, have designated their word of 2015. In a controversial move, it’s not word but an emoji.

? or “Face With Tears of Joy” is their word of 2015 chosen “as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”

Not only is the word of 2015 not a word, it isn’t even a literal representation of what people actually mean. If everybody cried tears of joy as often as social media would have us believe, we’d all be dehydrated.

Language obviously evolves and I appreciate that Oxford Dictionaries wants to remain relevant. Picking an emoji, not only shows they’re “down with the kidz” (or whatever the current phrase for that is these days), but it also ensures that the dictionary is discussed widely across the globe for at least a day of the year. So rather than being the word of the year, perhaps this is the best publicity stunt they could think up.

To me this choice is the equivalent of dad-dancing to your children’s music. It’s the British Prime Minister saying he’s a fan of the Arctic Monkeys. It’s trying to appear relevant and virile to a younger audience; It’s Vladimir Putin appearing semi-naked with a horse.

I’m not a huge fan of emoji myself. It’s come to the point, where I feel I can’t make a joke on the internet without putting a smiley face after it, so that people know it’s a joke. If I don’t, I can almost hear people thinking “Well he hasn’t put a smiley face after it, so it can’t be a joke”. They’re convenient but ultimately they reduce the richness of conversation.

I am now into my fifth decade, so my days of language evolution are mostly behind me. What’s evident from this award is that the way people communicate is forever evolving and that, as my children grow up, I’ll have less and less chance of understanding them.

Which word do you think best encapsulates 2015? If you had to pick an emoji, which would you have picked? Is there a more appropriate one than ?? 

 

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