Selfie’ — a smartphone self-portrait — has been declared word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.
It beat a number of other buzzwords, including ‘twerk’ (a raunchy dance move performed by singer Miley Cyrus) and ‘binge-watch’ (watching lots of TV).
Selfie emerged in 2002 when it was used by an Australian who posted a picture of injuries to his face sustained when he tripped over some steps. The man’s original forum posting of September 13, 2002 had read: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
Oxford Dictionaries defines a selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”.
Selfie has now seen a 17,000% increase in usage as a mainstream English word. The word was included on Oxford Dictionaries Online this August but is not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Oxford usually assigns a separate word of the year to the US and to the UK, but it said “selfie” captured the imagination across the world. The decision to crown it the word of the year was unanimous and “with little if any argument”.
“This is a little unusual,” said Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries. “Normally there will be some good-natured debate as one person might champion their particular choice over someone else’s. But this time, everyone seemed to be in agreement almost from the start. Other words were considered but selfie was the runaway winner.”
She said the term’s early origins seem to lie in social media and photo-sharing sites like Flickr and MySpace. But its usage didn’t become widespread until the second decade of this century and it has only entered really common use in the past year or so.
“Self-portraits are nothing new — people have been producing them for centuries, with the medium and publication format changing,” Pearsall said. “Oil on canvas gave way to celluloid, which in turn gave way to photographic film and digital media. As the process became snappier, so has the name. And now as smartphones have become de riguer for most, rather than just for techies, the technology has ensured that selfies are both easier to produce and to share, not least by the inclusion of a button which means you don’t need a nearby mirror.”
Other words shortlisted for the word of the year included ‘showrooming’ (examining a product at a shop before buying it online at a lower price) and ‘bitcoin’ (a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank). ‘Schmeat’ (a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue) was also a contender.
A word’s increase in use is calculated by Oxford Dictionaries using a research programme that collects around 150 million English words currently in use from around the web each month.
Previous words of the year have included ‘unfriend’ (2009), ‘credit crunch’ (2008), ‘carbon footprint’ (2007) and ‘Sudoku’ (2005).
It is estimated that annually 1.8 billion new words are used but just around 1,000 of them get recognition by making it to the dictionary.
Source: Times of India (TOI), November 20,2013 Wednesday , P-20