Oxford University has loosely interpreted the phrase “Word of the Year” by appointing an emoji as this year’s winner.
Despite a shortlist of actual words, including “on fleek”, “dark web” and “refugee”, the stunningly popular smiley face crying two tears was awarded the mantle.
Perhaps anticipating some backlash, Oxford defended its decision to give the award to an image, saying emojis crossed borders and languages, helping people communicate with a new, nuanced expression.
“This year, instead of choosing a traditional word or expression, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen an example of this type of pictographic script to represent the sharp increase in popularity of emojis across the world in 2015”, reads the Oxford Dictionaries blog.
Oxford Dictionaries partnered with keyboard app creator SwiftKey to determine the prevalence of the emoji, finding that “made up 20 per cent of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17 per cent of those in the US.”
In choosing the world of the year, Oxford uses software that catches 150 million English words being used at any one time on the Internet.
The software also flags the emergence of new words, as do the dictionary’s editors.
Contrary to popular belief, Oxford’s word of the year does not automatically make its way into its eponymous dictionary, as “it may be too soon to say if it will secure longevity”.
Past notable recipients of the award include “chav” (2004), “unfriend” (2009) and “selfie” (2013).
How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2015