Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Emoji Was Just Named Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionaries just named its Word of the Year.

And they picked an emoji.

The "Face with Tears of Joy," as it is officially called, shouldn't look unfamiliar to you. It was the most used emoji of the year, and according to Oxford Dictionaries, it "best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015."

Now, that last claim raises its own questions and emoji eyebrows, but an easier question to tackle is this: What would it mean for the language we write if emojis counted as words?

Hint: It doesn't mean that you can insert a crying face in your next research paper.

But does it simply mean that Oxford was being too inclusive with their definition of "word?"

Maybe. Maybe not.

Part of why this Emoji was chosen is because it transcends languages. That ability makes emojis closer to art than words. Plus, how can you pronounce an emoji? By saying its official title?

I can already hear my ancestors saying this is another nail in the coffin of the English language.

But let's not be dramatic.

Languages can't objectively improve or degrade necessarily. They can only change. As long as effective communication remains possible, that change isn't good or bad.

Remember, this emoji is effective enough that it transcends languages, and it was also effective enough that it was used more than any other emoji. Like it or not, many writers are embracing emojis.

While this emoji is clearly useful, I doubt that many English speakers would call it a word. But no one person or dictionary gets to own the language. Only we, the speakers and writers, can do that.

So, what do you think?

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