The English language is never dormant. With over 350 million people speaking it as their first language and another 400+ million non-native speakers of English, it can’t help but be constantly in flux.
Several different organizations get together annually to anoint one English word the “Word of the Year”.
The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is ‘vape’. Vape was added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014 and is defined as “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device”
The Oxford Dictionaries has both a UK and US editorial staff and sometimes the “Word of the Year” honor needs to be split, but this year both teams gave the nod to ‘vape’. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year does not need to be a new word merely a word or phrase that has attracted considerable interest and has the potential for lasting significance. Words that made the 2014 short list: bae, budtender, contactless, indyref, normcore and slacktivism.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary also has a Word of the Year. M-W relies on hard data (number of look ups) to come up with their WOTY. ‘Culture’ (as in culture wars, pop culture, rape culture, company culture) received the top honor in 2014 followed by nostalgia, insidious, legacy, feminism, je ne sais quoi, innovation, surreptitious, autonomy, and morbidity.
Dictionary.com, launched in 1995 as an online resource meant to “delight and inspire” users of the English language. They started a Word of the Year award in 2010. This year their editors chose, ‘exposure’ based on headlines and looks ups. Other top Dictionary.com words were: borders, disrupt, wearables and brae.
The American Dialect Society takes the Word of the Year title to a whole new level. They have several categories including “Most Likely to Succeed” and most unnecessary”. Most Notable Hashtag is also a category and this year the Word of the Year was #blacklivesmatter.
The ADS was not the only organization to award “Word of the Year” to, what I consider, a non-word. The Global Language Monitor presented top honors to the heart emoji (for love). Language really is changing!
Which word do you think most defines 2014?
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