Yup. The 2015 word of the year is not a word at all, but rather the crying-with-joy emoji we all know and
despise love. What is language?
When George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in the 1940s, he predicted that language would eventually devolve into Newspeak, where words were drawn together or their meanings were made ambiguous (“blackwhite,” “thinkpol”), and nuances of emotion were eliminated (“doubleplusungood,” “goodthink”).
Orwell got it half right, because while drawn-together words and abbreviations (“selfie,” “LOL,” “Brangelina”) have become commonplace, and social media platforms like Twitter even encourage brevity and simplification, we actually have a wealth of ability to express our emotions succinctly and with nuance: By using emoji.
Perhaps this is why the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015 is the ? (crying with laughter) emoji. Or perhaps it’s a giant “F*** you, you broke English” to Millennials — the emoji really is very ambiguous, and that’s probably the point.
(The official reason, as reported by the Oxford Dictionaries blog, is that the emoji was chosen based on its popularity; SwiftKey has determined that “Face with Tears of Joy” is the most used emoji of 2015. Whatever you say, Oxford.)
“Not only did we see a dramatic spike in usage of ‘Face with Tears of Joy,'” says Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, “we felt the character captured a sense playfulness and intimacy that embodies emoji culture itself.”
The word “emoji” actually comes from Japanese. “E” stands for “picture,” and “moji” stands for “letter, character.” The Oxford Dictionaries blog also notes that, “the similarity to the English word emoticon has helped its memorability and rise in use.”
Before you get too upset though, consider the other words the Oxford Dictionary was considering this year: “ad blocker,” “lumbersexual,” and “on fleek.” Last year’s word of the year was “vape,” an abbreviation of vapor or vaporize. The future is now, and Big Brother has won.
If you had to pick an emoji to explain how you feel about this news, what’d it be? Ours would be ?.