There may be over one million words in the English language but none of them are good enough to qualify as the official Word of the Year. This year that honour has gone to an emoji.
Officially known as the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji — although you may call it by another name — it was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.
Oxford University Press teamed up with mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emojis across the world and identified that “Face with Tears of Joy” made up 20 percent of all the emojis used in the U.K. in 2015, and 17 percent of those used in the U.S.
The word emoji, which has been used in English since 1997, has seen a similar increase: according to Oxford Dictionaries Corpus data usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year.
According to the judges “emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate (sic).”
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, said: “You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication.
“It’s not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps — it’s flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully. As a result emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.”
Unsurprisingly not everybody feels the same.
“I have lost all faith in humanity,” declared one commenter, while another claimed, “civilisation is doomed.”
One reader called the judges “idiotic, pseudo-intellectual buffoons” and accused them of “abusing the language by confusing symbols with words and their relationship between each other.”
Another posted, “I feel dumber for having looked at this. Not sure that is the purpose of a dictionary.”
Many people accused Oxford Dictionaries of selling out: “This decision you made benefits only your need for clicks and offers only bullets for the literary world.”
Also on the Word of the Year shortlist
Lumbersexual: A young urban man, typically bearded and wearing a check shirt to suggest a rugged outdoor lifestyle
On fleek: Extremely good, attractive or stylish
Brexit: A term for the potential departure of Britain from the EU
Dark Web: Part of the World Wide Web, only accessible using specialist software, used by people wishing to remain anonymous
Ad blocker: Software designed to prevent ads appearing on web pages
Refugee: A person forced to flee their home nation
They: Word being increasingly used to refer to a person of unspecified sex
Sharing economy: System of sharing assets or services between individuals, often using the Internet