For the first time in Oxford Dictionaries' history, their Word of the Year isn't a word; it's an emoji. Specifically, the "Face with Tears of Joy" emoji. The company made the announcement earlier this week to stunned academics and word lovers alike.
— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) November 16, 2015
The company explained its decision in a blog post published the same day, explaining that emojis have "been around since the late 1990s" and that "2015 saw their use, and the use of the word emoji, increase hugely". Missing from their explanation was a reason for selecting a pictograph rather than the word "emoji", which was seemingly absent from their shortlist of alternate choices. This shortlist included words and phrases such as "on fleek", "lumbersexual", and "sharing economy".
Once the decision was made to choose an emoji as the Word of the Year, Oxford Dictionaries partnered with SwiftKey to determine which emoji was the most popular one used in 2015. SwiftKey reported that the Face with Tears of Joy emoji was "the most used emoji globally" and reported that it accounted for 20 percent of all emoji use in the UK and 17 percent in the US. The post also attempted to defend the selection of an emoji by pointing to Hillary Clinton's infamous tweet about student loan debt as "notable use" of emojis and as evidence that "they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression". While one may agree with their assertion that emojis do indeed "cross language barriers", there are others who question why Oxford Dictionaries would select a pictograph over a word as their Word of the Year.
Oxford Dictionaries picks 'tears of joy' emoji as word of the year. English teachers search for 'Dickens spinning in grave’ emoji. — HaveIGotNewsForYou (@haveigotnews) November 17, 2015
.@OxfordWords have chosen ? as their word of the year, and we've chosen ? as our face for the rest of our lives
— Comedy Central UK (@ComedyCentralUK) November 17, 2015
The Oxford Dictionary have announced their word of the year for 2015 is ? pic.twitter.com/mF3idQQ7wq
— Andrew Brown (@AndrewBrownFCN) November 17, 2015
What are your thoughts on Oxford Dictionaries' rather unique choice? Are you all for the inclusion of pictographs, or is language officially dead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!