In the ultimate reflection of modern and overly simplistic communication, the word of the year chosen by Oxford Dictionaries is not a word at all — it’s an emoji.
That icon of yellow smiling face with two tears welling up in its eyes we all frequently use in our texts and social media updates, well, Oxford Dictionary has declared it the word or expression that has best captured the ethos, mood and preoccupations of this past year.
Yes, 2015 is now officially the year of the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji.
What a great time to be alive.
“You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication,” explained Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries. “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.”
Although emoji has been a staple of texting among teens and young adults for quite some time now, this culture has exploded into the global mainstream over the past year. The prominent examples in this case would be presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton soliciting feedback in emoji, and the ongoing debates about the skin tone of smiley faces.
“As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders,” he added. “When Andy Murray tweeted out his wedding itinerary entirely in emoji, for example, he shared a subtle mix of his feelings about the day directly with fans around the world. It was highly effective in expressing his emotions.”
The truth is, emoji have come to symbolize a core aspect of living in a world that is visual, expressive, and compulsively abrupt.
Some other words also managed to make it to the shortlist along with the laughing/crying emoji. While some of them that were introduced into popular vocabulary as slang, some saw a surge in usage due to worldwide circumstances.
Here’s the run-down:
Leading technology firm SwiftKey revealed that the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji made up about 17% of all the emojis used in the United States, which is a sharp rise from 9% in 2014. Similarly, the word emoji itself has also seen a surge. Apparently, its usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year, according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.
Let’s just hope this is not the beginning of the end for the English language itself — because if Oxford Dictionaries can consider an emoji the “word” of the year, one can only imagine what gets selected the next year.