November 17, 2015

New trend: Word of the year is not a word

It's WOTY season again. Oxford Dictionaries enters with a splash: Their Word of the Year is.... not a word at all. It's a pictograph, the "Face with Tears of Joy" emoij.

I find this rather disappointing. Where to begin? For a start, it's not a word, at least not in the traditional sense of the, eh, word. (Just as the hashtag #blacklivesmatter -- voted "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society last year -- is not a word. Just as the new "because" construction -- voted "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society in 2013 -- is not a word.) Call me old schook, but what's wrong with trying to find an actual word that "best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015"?

Second, I'm having a really hard time to accept that the "ethos, mood, and preoccupation of 2015" is best characterized by an overflowing expression of joy. Perhaps it's a matter of timing: The Oxford announcement came three days after the Paris/Beirut attacks. I've seen a lot of emojis on my screen, but they were not of the "Face with Tears of Joy" kind.