Oxford English Dictionary’s Hottest New Word is…SELFIE!

It finally happened. Two years and several million excruciatingly annoying photos later, “selfie” finally made the dictionary. Britain’s Oxford University Press, which publishes the popular Oxford English Dictionary, chose “selfie” as 2013’s word of the year after a rapid spike in online usage. For now, the popular term for a camera phone self-portrait will only be included in the Oxford online dictionary, presumably driving all the other “S” words crazy with constant duck face and shutter sounds.

SELFIE

Oxford’s annual word of the year announcement tends to reflect the tide of our times. In 2009 they chose “unfriend.” In 2008 it was “credit crunch.” 2007 was the year of the “carbon footprint” and in 2005, we were all crazy about “Sudoku.” Oh how the mighty have fallen. In just eight short years, we’ve gone from puzzle loving intellectuals intent on examining our civilization’s impact on the environment, to self-centered wannabe models with our smart phones stuck to our nose.

I’ll save the social commentary for another time, but you know it’s a concerning trend. But what’s even more curious are the origins of the word “selfie.” It turns out we have the world’s most beautiful ex-prison colony to thank, Australia. The Australians, known for adding the “ie” suffix to every possible word—”barbie” for barbecue, “tinnie” for a can of beer—have been credited with introducing “selfie” to the masses. The word first appeared in an Australian blog in 2002. Two short years later, the hashtag “#selfie” had spread to Flickr, and self-sanity spread like a virus.

As obnoxious as the word “selfie” is, it deserves credit for beating out some of 2013’s more infuriating buzzwords. The stiff competition included “twerking,” “showrooming,” (which is the act of window shopping at a brick and mortar store only to buy a product online for cheaper) and “binge-watch,” which if you have a Netflix account and have heard of Breaking Bad, needs no explanation.

Oxford monitors the Internet and examines over 150 million words each month, a large portion of those being new slang, reshaped words, and the ever popular acronym, i.e. “spoiler alert,” “FRATtastic,” and “ICYMI,” (in case you missed it). The annual winner of word of the year is part novelty and part addition to our historical record. For better or worse, the English language is extremely malleable and constantly adapts to a sort of unspoken cultural consensus. It’s an ever fascinating, sometimes aggravating, and always practical fact of life.

So look up the word “selfie” in the dictionary, and you’ll probably see a picture of yourself.

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