A New Low: Emoji Named Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year”

woty-100628394-galleryOver the past few years Oxford Dictionaries has been pursuing its version of shallow Buzzfeed-esque clickbait by choosing a Word of the Year that has little cultural value, no historical significance, and is only intended to generate headlines.

The last three Words of the Year were omnishambles, selfie, and vape, but Oxford Dictionaries reached a new low this year. PC World, WSJ, and other sites report that Oxford Dictionaries has chosen its Word of the Year for 2015: An emoji described as “face with tears of joy.”

Why? Because apparently Oxford Dictionaries only just now noticed that people are using emojis in online conversations (never mind that people have been using them for a couple decades, and emoticons for decades before that).

“You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication,” said Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries in a statement. “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. As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.”

The WSJ added that other words and expressions that made the shortlist for the 2015 Word of the Year: Ad blocker, Dark Web, lumbersexual, on fleek, refugee, Brexit, and sharing economy.

It’s a shame that refugee wasn’t chosen as the WotY; it has an immediate significance for 2015 that does not need to be explained in 2015, and would make the starting point for a good history lesson when referenced ten years or more down the road.

An emoji, on the other hand,  gives a false impression of the shallowness of modern culture. Choosing this as the WotY suggests that people can’t be bothered to use more words to express their opinions and ideas.

As anyone who has followed online discussions over the past year could tell you, that is simply not true.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Will R.17 November, 2015

    Is this the same as OED? If they’re not going to stick up for words as words, who is?

    1. Nate Hoffelder17 November, 2015

      It is and it isn’t.

      it’s the same organization, but not in any way related to the dictionary (I hope).

  2. Will R.17 November, 2015

    Thanks. Bad enough, anyhow.

  3. Frank17 November, 2015

    I disagree that this is a low point for Oxford Dictionary. While emoji has been used over a decade by instant messaging/texting teens, this year is the first time that many people other than teens have started to use the emoji. The iPhone’s iOS 9.1 just added emoji a few months ago.

  4. kariss18 November, 2015

    This is what I said when I saw it, they just pick something contraversial to make sure it gets in the news, so once a year we are reminded that it is somones job,

    1. Nate Hoffelder18 November, 2015

      I don’t know that I would call it controversial so much as clickbait. There’s no substance.


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