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Oxford Dictionaries names an emoji its word of the year

Widening the cultural divide between generations that have trouble configuring their WiFi network and those who end their romantic relationships via Snapchat, Wired is reporting that Oxford Dictionaries has selected the “face with tears of joy” emoji as the 2015 word of the year. Or, to conform to the vernacular in which we will all soon be exclusively conversing:


Pac-Man experiencing a cathartic sob beat out a number of other topical words and phrases, including “lumbersexual,” “Brexit,” “dark web,” “on fleek,” “sharing economy,” and the singular usage of “they” to refer to someone of unspecified gender. (“Refugee” was also considered as word of the year, but if 2015 has taught us anything about refugees, it’s that nobody wants them.) As with most word of the year selections, the 2015 choice was based largely on usage, despite the fact that pictographs are not actual words. We could tell you the exact increase in emoji usage frequency, but since words are so tragically unhip, let’s consult the Oxford Dictionaries graph:


To be fair, emojis do have cultural significance, as Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl confirms: “Emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders,” he says. And though it’s understandable for language purists to be all “frowny-face-middle-finger” about this news, the designation should be taken in context. After all, “face with tears of joy” is merely the latest in a series of questionable words and ideas crowned word of the year, including “vape,” “selfie,” and “refudiate.”

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