Language Lovers Rejoice! The Word of the Year is Here

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It’s that time of year again! The most wonderful season has arrived for wordsmiths and lexicographers around the world: it’s the annual awarding of the titles for Word of the Year.

Whether you’re someone whose job is focused on crafting content or simply devoted to the venerable sport of language-watching, your big day has come. We’ve gotten the final word from the big dictionary groups on just which of the new additions will take the title for 2014.

Consider the news to be accompanied with an open invitation to argue, complain, agree or offer alternatives – or all of them! After all, language is a living, growing body that is shaped by the input of each user. That means you DO get to decide. You’re the decider at last! Well, you and several famous dictionaries, but your input definitely counts. The words your teammates contributed as winners are:

Vape This wonderful word is both a noun and a verb. Selected by Oxford Dictionaries, it refers to the act of inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette (vaporizer) or the cloud of vapor itself, or sometimes the “juice” that is heated to make the cloud and deliver the delicious satisfaction. Vapers are the people who enjoy vaping. Oxford Dictionaries also selected a few runners-up, which are interesting as well:

  • Normcore (clothing that distinctively doesn’t stand out for its uniqueness)
  • Contactless (methods of payment that rely on wireless scanning of data)
  • Slacktivism (armchair activism such as Facebook likes or online petitions)

Photobomb is the 2014 selection by Collins English Dictionary. While the act of inserting oneself uninvited into the photographs of others has been popular by that name for some years, Collins claims that in 2014 the practice was raised in prominence to the point that it deserves the title. It’s true that this year the British royal family has been particularly active in the photobombing arena, so that may have played a role in the selection process. Collins selected the winner over runners-up that included:

  • Tinder (the popular dating app in which users swipe to indicate their approval or lack thereof)
  • Bakeoff (a competitive baking event)
  • Normcore (see above)

Overshare takes the title from Chambers Dictionary. While their formal definition is “to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life,” it’s simpler to just think “Facebook” or “Kim Kardashian” and you’ll immediately get the gist of the word. The list of Chambers’ also-rans and their official definitions includes:

  • Bashtag: “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments”
  • Digital native: “a person who has learned to use computers as a child”
  • Hipster: “a member of the generation born in the 1980-90s who look down on their native middle-class culture, and self-consciously adopt a bohemian lifestyle and mode of dress”

Other words that merited significant attention but weren’t given top billing include adorkable, devo-max, mansplain, cronut, sharknado and the much maligned twerking.

So what do you think? Did the big dictionaries make a good call or were they way off the mark? We’d love to get your take on the issue. What’s your suggestion for the Word of the Year in 2014? Let us know in the comments and if you feel like casting a ballot with the American Dialect Society, which hasn’t yet made their official choice, you can contact them at woty@americandialect.org to send in your ideas.

Follow Sarah:
Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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