In the never-ending popularity contest that is the world of dictionary publishing, Oxford Dictionaries has announced that it’s gotten really into vaping, even going so far as to name “vape” its 2014 Word of the Year. The news comes not long after Merriam-Webster added words like “selfie,” “tweep,” and “dubstep” in what now seems an especially desperate attempt to seem cool—particularly given that Oxford had already named “selfie” its Word of the Year last year. Now exposed as lame late adopters, Merriam-Websters are already being stricken from this season’s runway shows, consigned to only being carried ironically by people who won’t use them to look up “irony.”
The Oxford’s totally cool interest in “vape” that it’s actually had for a while now, it’s pretty casual, includes adding the definition “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device” to its online dictionary. That definition, as well as the noun synonym for said devices, have the possibility of joining the Oxford English Dictionary if all the vaping keeps up. Which is quite possible: As the announcement notes, “vaping” was first coined by the author Robert Stepney in 1983, but has become so popular recently that “you are 30 times more likely to come across the word ‘vape’ than you were two years ago.” You are also 30 times more likely to hear the word “vape” from someone you know who just started doing it. Sometimes, that someone is a dictionary.
That growing ubiquity of both vapes and the people who vape them helped “vape” beat out several other contenders for Word of the Year—contenders which must now content themselves with simply being validated as acceptable terms of communication by also being added to the dictionary. These runners-up include “bae,” defined as “a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner” (now even sexier because it’s in the dictionary); “normcore,” defined as being deliberately unfashionable as a fashion statement, in a clear dig at Merriam-Webster; “slacktivism,” defined as the sort of lazy Internet protest that will probably greet this article; and the cannabis club-derived portmanteau “budtender,” defined as “maybe you didn’t hear, but the Oxford Dictionaries is super into vaping now.”
In response to “vape” becoming an official, dictionary-approved word, the many adults huddled around the “e-juice bar,” pouring candy-colored liquids with names like “Blue Buckaroo,” “Grasshopper Pie,” and “Mount Dizzle” into glowing pens they suck on, were pleased to learn they’d no longer have to feel kind of silly.