Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is not even a word, it's an emoji
Published at Tue Nov 17 2015 16:47 IST
What do you think when you reminisce about your childhood? That cake of Maggi in your tiffin box (things weren't banned as much then), PT shoes, batting first (come on, do you know anyone who chose to bowl after winning the toss?), and Oxford Dictionaries.
Everyone had one — tightly bound a million or so pages, with a wrinkled spine — resting on their study tables, waiting to be studied. A big word in the newspaper, or in that novel that you were reading, or simply when you couldn't make any sense out of Captain Haddock's profane outbursts — Oxford dictionary was always there. You could trust it.
Now, you can't.
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year- 'Face with Tears of Joy'. Image courtesy: Facebook
In a time when dictionaries and encyclopedias are almost obsolete because people can just Google stuff, it seems Oxford is trying keep up with the new generation. Today, when communication is undergoing serious dilation, Oxford has gone on and taken a step in that very direction.
Oxford comes out with the 'Word of the Year' (WOTY) every year, and this year that word is an emoji. No, not the word 'emoji' (which would at least make literal sense), but an actual pictorial emoji— one of many present on your WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook.
The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is the 'Face with Tears of Joy' emoji (you know, the one in which the emoji face is crying and laughing at the same time, that one).
It's the first time ever that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is not even an actual word but a pictograph. According to Oxford 'Face with Tears of Joy' emoji was chosen as the Word of the Year as it "best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015."
Oxford expands on its reasoning as follows:
"Emojis are no longer the preserve of texting teens – instead, they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers."
There were eight other WOTY shortlists for the year — ad blocker, Brexit, Dark Web, on fleek, lumbersexual, refugee, sharing economy, and they (singular). Well, one can hardly say the 'Face with tears of Joy' emoji had much competition, but at least they were words!
Yes, emojis have been around for a while. In fact pictographs were used as earliest forms of writing. Over time communication evolved, and language (written and spoken) developed. Emojis (moji in Japanese means a "character", or a "letter", or a "symbol", in fact Japanese script uses characters itself), in their modern form have entered our lexicon and are used in our day-to-day lives. There's an emoji to depict every emotion—anger, sadness, happiness, goofiness, excitement, et cetera.
And one can understand Oxford's attempt to be contemporary. They are just keeping up. But the question is, should they?
Communication between people is getting truncated. And in not too distant future, people might just need only emojis (or something of that form) to communicate on phone. True, language can't and won't be supplanted. Literature and academics will thrive and survive as they have up till now. But Oxford's WOTY choice is only reinforcing personal communication that wants to take the shortest way out.