Sorry twerk and binge-watch, selfie is the 2013 word of the year


The Oxford Dictionary announced November 18 that “selfie” is the official international word of the year, beating out binge-watch, twerk and schmeat.

For those without a smartphone, a selfie is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website and tagged #selfie.

“Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research program, which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of the word selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as word of the year,” said Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, in a press release.

The word selfie can be linked to hundreds of memorable photo opportunities from all around the world.  From teenagers taking selfies with Pope Francis on the steps of the Vatican, to Sasha and Malia Obama snapping a quick selfie at their father President Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration and even Miley Cyrus posing half naked in her washroom showing off her new haircut and posting it on Instagram for the rest of the world to see.

“Social media sites helped to popularize the term, with the hashtag #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn’t widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources” Pearsall explained.

Christian Purdy, Director of Publicity for Oxford University Press said research showed that the word selfie first appeared early in 2002 in an Australian online forum post:

2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept. “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over 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.”

The runners up to selfie included binge-watch, which is defined as the practice of watching television for longer time spans than usual, usually of a single television show.  Twerk, which Oxford Dictionary describes as a dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance –a move that Miley Cyrus made famous after a controversial performance at the 2013 VMAs.

And finally, schmeat, which is a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue.

“Here at Oxford Unity Press USA, we debated and discussed whether word of the year should be binge-watch instead of selfie as TV viewing has evolved recently thanks to the popularity of shows like Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Game of Thrones and other great shows on cable networks.  In the end it is hard to argue with the overwhelming use and ubiquity of selfie.”  Purdy said.

In the meantime, as history has shown, if we keep a close watch on iconic celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, we might have an idea of what the 2014 word of the year might be.


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