November 22, 2013
Get Over Your Selfie, Already
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But how many different ways can one say, “UGH”?
In the sounding of a death knell for old-fashioned communication and language, Oxford Dictionaries announced the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year: selfie.
Yes, you read that correctly. Oxford Dictionaries, who bill themselves as “the world’s most trusted dictionaries” (despite today’s announcement) selected selfie as their esteemed Word of the Year. Out of all the words in the English language, one word emerged victorious and immensely superior to all others. Selfie.
I’m sure there are numerous questions buzzing inside your feverish brain right now. “What the heck is a selfie?” “Is selfie a noun or a verb?” “Isn’t Oxford usually associated with higher levels of academic achievement and intellectual prowess?” Let’s examine further, shall we?
Oxford Dictionaries defines our annual word winner thusly:
noun (plural selfies)
- a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website:occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn’t necessary
early 21st century: from self + -ie
Even more fascinating (read: disappointing) is the revelation that this year’s winner was a unanimous decision, agreed upon with very little deliberation. Sure, there were other words in consideration, but none could capture the collective imagination quite like selfie.
Selfie is actually not a new word, though it’s ubiquitous nature would have us think its arrival on the scene is both recent and fresh. Its origins date back to 2002, when it was used in an Australian online forum posting. Only recently has the term become commonly used, its widespread popularity owed in no small part to social media.
Though selfie is fairly new, the concept of self-portraits is not. Those have been around for centuries. What used to be captured using oil paint on canvas then evolved to celluloid, and now, digital media. The process has become markedly more efficient; instead of sitting for an extended period of time for a canvas portrait, now you can snap a selfie anytime, anyplace.
Mobile devices have evolved to incorporate design and functionality that actually make taking selfies easier. No longer confined to poorly lit rooms with mirrors, selfie aficionados are now free to roam and pose wherever their whimsy takes them. Most smartphones now feature dual-facing cameras, allowing them to throw up deuces and duckface and capture perfect selfies with the touch of a button.
The selfie isn’t going anywhere. All the cool kids are doing it. Everyone. The First Daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, are fans of the selfie. Celebrities who are savvy enough to harness social media know that regular selfies are required to keep fans engaged. (Seriously. Type any public figure’s name followed by selfie in your search engine of choice and see what comes up.) Heck, even The Pope proved he is down with the selfie when he posed with a group of youngsters in August, sending the resulting selfie viral.
Next time you watch media coverage of an event—movie premiere, sporting event, concert, book signing, etc.—take notice that nobody asks for autographs anymore; it’s all about getting a selfie with the celebrity, athlete, politician, or Papal figurehead. A few quick seconds and a well-honed selfie technique and you’ve got yourself a special memory to cherish. I mean, right after you share it all over social media. (It’s about bragging rights, people.)
Other words that were on the shortlist for top honors include binge-watch, bitcoin, schmeat, and twerk.
It’s important to note that despite earning the lofty annual honor, selfie is part of the Oxford Dictionaries website and it is not presently included in the definitive Oxford English Dictionary. Yet.
On a curious and fitting note, on the day of the announcement, the Oxford Dictionaries website’s word of the day was:
- a frivolous or foolish person: he grew up regarding his classmates as a bunch of brainless fribbles
- a thing of no great importance: to us a little fire was a fribble, a trifling obstacle
To give context, I’ll use it in a sentence:
“Can you believe those fribbles at Oxford Dictionaries unanimously selected ‘selfie’ as their 2013 Word of the Year?”
At least we can take solace in the fact that the winner wasn’t twerk.
Image Credit: Thinkstock