Word Of The Year Is An Emoji
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Face with Tears of Joy emoji has become Oxford Dictionaries 2015 Word of the Year, raising the question of can an emoji be considered to have the status of a word.

It seems that the answer is yes, with experts arguing that the emoji is becoming an "increasingly rich form of communication" for the online generation, replacing the traditional alphabet.

They point to the way in which their use has moved from being the preserve of texting teens to being adopted universally, using as an example the way in which US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used them recently on Twitter. 




Defending the surprising choice of an emoji rather than a string of phonemes as Word of the Year, President of Oxford Dictionaries, Casper Grathwohl says in this video:

"You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st Century communication.... As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders". 



He goes on to explain the selection process, backed up by real-time language analysis on the frequency and usage data, in which Oxford Dictionaries reviews candidates for word of the year and chooses that one that captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year.

The word emoji, which as we reported was added to the Oxford Online Dictionary in 2013 having been used in English since 1997, has seen a dramatic rise in usage in 2015 - tripling its incidence compared to 2014 according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus:  




Data from Swiftkey, which looked at frequency and usage statistics of popular emoji on behalf of Oxford University Press, 'Face with Tears of Joy' was the most heavily used emoji globally in 2015 with the character comprised 20 per cent of all emoji used in the UK in 2015, and 17 per cent of all emoji used in the US. 

Grathwohl  said:

"Not only did we see a dramatic spike in usage of 'Face with Tears of Joy,' we felt the character captured a sense playfulness and intimacy that embodies emoji culture itself."

Other words on the shortlist for Word of 2015 were:

  • Dark Web: The part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.

  • Ad blocker,  A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.

While being glad that a joyful symbol triumphed over these alternatives, there is no getting away from the fact that the shady practices they represent are on the rise and are characteristic of the times we currently live in. 

More Information

Oxford Dictionaries

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 November 2015 )