Over 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.