Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who Would Have Thought That Was the Word of the Year?

The internet is a fascinating thing, full of wonderful words and interesting tidbits of information.  If you have been watching with avid interest what is happening on the internet, and been reading the news in recent weeks, you will no doubt have seen something where the papers of the world have announced the word of the year.   Thats right - hold onto your seats folks - exciting stuff.  (Whilst I jest I do confess  I found it quite interesting)

It led me to wonder, what were some of the runner ups, and what other interesting words were there from 2013.   Most importantly, how did that word win?   Suffice to say it was an interesting journey into the world of new words.  Now, I would hardly call myself a Etymologist (fancy word for someone who studies the origins of word and how they change over time), I am more of a logophile (lover of words), but I did learn a thing or three.

Firstly, the Oxford Dictionary Online.  FABULOUS resource - you can check it out at this link Oxford Dictionary online.  They update their online resource (a resource where there are screeds and screeds of articles, videos, interesting facts and of course words!) four times a year.  During this time there are thousands of new entries and updates - in December alone there were over 500 new words, phrases and senses, as well as over a thousand newly revised entries.  Whew.

So how do they choose the word of the year?

Every year any word or phrase that has gained popularity throughout the year and finds its way to  become shortlisted into the list of top words, is then scrutinised to see if that particular word or phrase typifies the year, and if it has the durability to be a lasting testament culturally and historically.  If it does, it becomes the word of the year.

Enough verbosity (cue cheeky wink),  let us move onto the top words of 2013.  I know you are on the edge of your seat with anticipation!

Word of the Year:

Drum roll please…….

Selfie - defined as:

"a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website" OED

A simple troll through your Facebook wall and you will be inundated with various pictures of your friends, their friends, and their friends, friends, selfies.  I suspect you will probably have uploaded a few of your own in the last year.   The term was first used in an Australian online forum in 2002, but took on a life of its own from 2012.

From the original word a number of spin offs have evolved such as welfie (for when you work out), a helfie (picture of your new hairstyle), a belfie (of ones backside), a drelfie (for when one has had one to many 'lemonades'), and there are even selfies at funerals - perhaps a felfie?  I know you think I am kidding but there are sites dedicated to selfies at funerals - heres a popular tumblr site for you to verify my claim! selfiesatfunerals 

I guess the types of selfies one can take are merely limited to ones imagination, and I expect we will see many more pop up.  You can find more information from OED here selfie info graphic.  I wonder what will be next (not that I am wondering that hard to be honest).

What Made Runner Up?

Twerk - made most famous by Miley Cyrus, to twerk is to dance in a sexually provocative and raunchy way, involving plenty of hip thrusts and low squatting.  The bonus, not only a dance move but a work out that is bound to tighten up those thighs!  I have to confess, I am not a big fan of the whole twerking (I note with amusement how my auto correct wants to change the word to tweaking which seems far more 'proper') business - I think I might be a bit of a stick in the mud!

Binge watch - whereby someone sits and watches too much television in one go, a particularly popular pastime for catching up with a whole series in one afternoon (Game of Thrones catch up anyone?), or to wile away a wet miserable weekend.  I would imagine the main downside would be the subsequent square eyes and extra kilos gained from all the additional snacking.  After all, whats a movie or tv marathon session without some snacks?

Bedroom Tax - a term that has come from the UK, and best explained by the OED.   "a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household, according to criteria set down by the government." OED  Seems a bit silly and extreme from my perspective, but who am I to judge?  We have a 'pan tax' (waste water and how many toilets an organisation has - and yes its as ridiculous as it sounds) which is as equally silly and extreme in my opinion.  However silly as it may seem, it was used widely enough to make the shortlist!

Bitcoin - a form of digital currency that is becoming more and more popular around the world, and which does not need a central bank.  You can find out more here Bitcoin - I will, however, continue to use old fashioned currency methods until my understanding of this new fangled way of paying for things makes sense (or there is a particularly fabulous pair of boots that can only be paid for by bitcoin and then watch how fast I figure it out - cue the cheeky wink!).

Schmeat - synthetic meat - also known as invetro meant - produced from biological tissue.  Hmmmm, sounds yummy.  Sarcasm aside, early news reports indicated that cost made it prohibitive to produce with the Guardian reporting early in August 2013 that it cost 250,000 pounds.  Thats quite an expensive piece of meat in anyones book.  Ill take my meat fresh off the organic farm for now - but who knows how adventurous I might be in the future.   I wonder what it tastes like...

Olinguito - this was a new one for me - I had heard of most of the others, but this little fellow had snuck past me.  An Olinguito is a small furry mammal from South America, similar to a racoon.  Cute, and the first discovery of a new mammal in 35 years, hence the addition to the shortlist.  I guess there will always be room for the cute and cuddly.

 A baby olinguito found recently in Colombia. Photograph by Juan Rendon

Show rooming - another new term for me.  To show room is to go to a shop and view a product you are thinking of buying, checking it out in the 'flesh' so to speak, but then returning home and buying it online for cheaper.  Seems a bit cheeky.  It would be something I might do if it wasn't for one thing - I don't really like to wait for things.  I am happy to support local businesses and all the better if I can get it straight away.  Thats not to say I don't buy online.  However, it must be popular if someone went to the trouble to coin a phrase for it and for it to make the short list.  Oh the things you learn.

Did You Know:

I mentioned above that the Oxford Dictionary Online is a fabulous resources, for example, did you know that each day they have a word of the day to delight and teach you something - todays word, pellicle (thin layer of skin/membrane covering a surface).  If you want to find out more you can read its history, look at the thesaurus and basically find out all you ever wanted to know.  Whats more, you can even sign up for the word of the day!! One way to astound your friends and family with your growing vocabulary - or look like a pretentious braggart (snob, jerk - take your pick).

Finally, I do wonder what the word of the year might be in 2014.  Fascinating.  In the meantime, go forth and conquer the world of the selfie, indulge in some show rooming (perhaps you could take a selfie as you are show rooming, in the process create a 'shromlfie'), go home and buy your new item with some bitcoins, then indulge in some binge watching of your favourite show while snacking on some schmeat, ensuring you don't get caught twerking with a bedroom tax.  


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