The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is . . . not a word at all.
For the first time, the dictionary has bestowed the English-language honour on an emoji.
Oxford said the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji – a digital image shared via text and social media – is “the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”
And it was the most popular of all the emojis out there.
“Emojis are no longer the preserve of texting teens – instead, they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers,” Oxford says.
But not everyone is happy about the choice.
“The Oxford dictionary’s word of the year is an emoji. So we’re done here, just turn out the lights on your way out,” Ed Van Tassel wrote on Twitter. “Next year’s Oxford Dictionary word of the year will be a tiny kitten. Not an Emoji of a kitten, an actual, particular baby kitten,” joked Robin D. Laws.
Others said it reflects how the English language has evolved over time.
The choice, U.K.-based linguist Kate Wiles wrote on Twitter, is a “really interesting expansion of our concept of what a language is.”
“Language is ever evolving and fluid. People should refer to works of Shakespeare, for example, to see evolution in practice,” a user named Matt commented.
Other words – this time ones with real letters – that made the Oxford shortlist included refugee, Dark Web, ad blocker, sharing economy, they (used to describe a person of unspecified sex) and Brexit (the name of the U.K’s potential exit from the European Union).
On fleek – very good, stylish – also made the cut, as did lumbersexual, which apparently describes an urban man who dresses like he lives an outdoor lifestyle, “typified by a beard and check shirt.”