Oxford Dictionaries announced its word of the year, which isn’t a word as we generally think of one—it’s an emoji.
— Oxford Dictionaries (@OxfordWords) November 16, 2015
At first glance, my reaction was that they should consult their own product to get the definition of “word.” So, I did.
Turns out, the definition “word” is fairly broad. Here’s the first of a few definitions:
A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.
Does the “face with tears of joy” emoji fit any of these criteria? You can certainly argue that it does. Nothing says the word has to be comprised of letters.
The emoji wasn’t chosen randomly—there’s actually data to back the choice. Oxford Dictionaries explains in a post on its blog:
This year Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.
The study reported that the emoji netted 20 percent of all emojis used in the United Kingdom and 17 percent of those used in the United States.
The emoji’s popularity didn’t stop Twitter users from voicing amusement, displeasure and anger over Oxford Dictionaries’ selection:
100% of Britons are 😂 at Oxford Dictionaries word of the year choice.
— Stats Britain (@StatsBritain) November 17, 2015
You know language is at its death bed when Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year isn’t even a word.
— Geri Ami (@gewiimouse) November 17, 2015
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is this emoji (😂). May the English language rest in peace. So much hate.
— Stephanie Mulholland (@Stephmulz) November 17, 2015
Has the Oxford Dictionaries staff been replaced with a bunch of eighth-grade schoolgirls? #LegitQuestion
— LisetteInBlue (@bookgirl8) November 17, 2015
This emoji has been named as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year, narrowly beating out that little turd one. pic.twitter.com/nQtKTp7p0V
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) November 17, 2015
This emoji is the ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionaries: 😂 And I only can say: 😑😓🙄👎🏼
— Marian Riquelme (@marianriq) November 17, 2015
*runs through the streets, screaming “Oxford Dictionaries isn’t the same thing as the Oxford English Dictionary” and weeping*
— Tom Phillips (@flashboy) November 17, 2015
Several users pointed out that Oxford Dictionaries’ crowning the “face with tears of joy” emoji as its word of the year is a PR stunt, starting another debate over the tactic’s success:
Outrage over an emoji being Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is so funny. If only there were a convenient way to express this hilarity.
— paul bassett davies (@thewritertype) November 17, 2015
Fair point though that 😂 isn’t a word as we’d understand one. Oxford Dictionaries are doing academic version of trolling to provoke debate.
— ElainovisioNovember (@scattermoon) November 17, 2015
There’s no venue in which my feed is more passionately, reflexively conservative than in innovation-shaming the Oxford Dictionaries
— Calvert Morgan (@CalMorgan) November 17, 2015
— Real Misterduncan (@misterduncan_uk) November 17, 2015
@fierengraw I’ve never used them. I think this is a shameless act of PR to get people talking about Oxford Dictionaries. And it’s worked.
— Shaun Gunner (@ShaunGunner) November 17, 2015
The Oxford Dictionaries PR team this morning looking at all their coverage: 😂
— Robert Perry (Pez) (@pez_sez) November 17, 2015
The Oxford Dictionaries’ declares an emoji ‘Word of the Year’ but it’s not the one for ‘cool PR stunt, dude!’
— Iain (@Cuphook108) November 17, 2015
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is… whatever their PR team think will get them loads of press. 🙁
— Tom Ireland (@Tom_J_Ireland) November 17, 2015
There are days when I hate the PR industry I work in. Oxford Dictionaries naming an emoji their word of the year is one of those days.
— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) November 17, 2015
The “tears of joy” emoji beat out several contenders such as “on fleek,” “lumbersexual,” “ad blocker” and “Brexit,” as noted in Oxford Dictonaries’ infographic:
What do you think of the decision? Does selecting an emoji signal a death to language, or are you 😂?