Staff Editorial: Oxford Dictionary chooses word of the year

By Duke Staff

Every year, Oxford Dictionaries chooses one word that “demonstrate[s] some kind of prominence” in the English language both for the UK and U.S. according to their site. Past winners in America have been GIF (2012) unfriend (2009) and podcast (2005) while credit crunch (2008) and Sudoku (2005) have been chosen across the pond. But for 2013, one word was so overwhelmingly popular that the choice was made by Oxford that it would represent both countries.

That word is “selfie (n.):  a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” Thought to originate from Australia, the word first started popping up on sites like Flickr in 2002 then on Twitter in 2004 in the form of a hashtag.

If this isn’t news to you, it’s probably because other news outlets have already covered the story, bashing OD for its choice. But before becoming outraged by this acknowledgement, other words and phrases should be defined. Firstly the publication that made the decision.

Oxford Dictionaries (n.): The Publisher of two separate language resources, The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the Oxford Dictionary Online (ODO). The OED is the historic printed document that has recorded the history of core words and meanings for over 1,000 years. The ODO is an online database that is constantly being updated and focuses on “current English and includes modern meanings and uses of words” according to its website’s description page.

The word selfie may have been defined as The Word of the Year by OD and has its own entry on Oxford Dictionary Online, however it does not hold more strength than other words.

The main difference between a word being published in the OED and the ODO is that words can become removed after they’ve lost relevance on Oxford Dictionary Online.  Selfie is a slang word, just like other commonly used words generated by today’s culture similar to Yinzer, YOLO, and yes, even twerk. The difference between credible words and slang is…

Slang (n.) is a term used in language that are regarded as informal or restricted to a particular context or group. They are not really considered a standard of vocabulary. The real crisis will ensue if the word and others like it make it to the printed dictionary.

The society we live in will forever shape the words we use.  If we are in fact using these words every day and partaking in the actions they describe, then how can we be upset that they are become actual words?