The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is (drumroll here) an emoji. Not the word emoji, mind you, but this particular emoji:
It’s most commonly referred to as “face with tears of joy.”
You might be saying, “That’s not a word!” Apparently, the definition of “word” itself is pretty vague. As long as it is a single element of speech or writing, it counts. Oxford Dictionaries defends the choice by noting that this was the most commonly used emoji globally in 2015. The traditional alphabet apparently just can’t keep up with the visual communication of today, argues Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries.
“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,” says Grathwohl.
People shouldn’t be too shocked. The decision is on trend with Oxford Dictionaries other recent technology-based choices including “GIF” and “selfie.” Despite this, there’s been backlash online with people dramatically sending the English language off to rest in peace or calling it a cheap PR move.
When you think about it though, why not make the “Word of the Year” an emoji? Consider this:
• Eight in 10 people use emoji to communicate.
• Dominoes recently made it possible to order pizza by texting an emoji.
• Taco Bell petitioned to have a taco emoji added to the keyboard and finally won with the addition to the iOS 9.1 keyboard. The company has gone on to create an interactive #TacoEmojiEngine.
• There’s even evidence that including emoji in your subject line increases opens.
We are in a time where visual communication is rising and becoming an extremely effective way to reach target audiences. Perhaps Oxford Dictionaries is more “on fleek” than traditionalists are ready for.