Why Oxford Dictionaries Named an Emoji as Its 'Word' of the Year

By Hinckley, Story | The Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

Why Oxford Dictionaries Named an Emoji as Its 'Word' of the Year


Hinckley, Story, The Christian Science Monitor


For the first time ever, Oxford Dictionaries Word of the year is an emoji. The face-with-tears-of-joy emoji was chosen to represent "the 'word' that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015."

Oxford University Press partnered with SwiftKey, a smartphone app that supports auto-correct features, and identified the laughing with tears emoji to be the most used globally, making up 20 percent of all emojis used in the UK and 17 percent of those in the US.

So why an emoji? Oxford Dictionaries Corpus sites a dramatic surge in emoji use for 2015, triple that of the year before.

And this is hardly surprising when reading today's studies - or simply your text messages.

According to SwiftKey, 74 percent of Americans report using an emoji every single day. The social media site Instagram, with over 400 million users, reports half of all Instagram comments include at least one emoji.

And in a 2015 study by Talk Talk Mobile, more than 80 percent of Brits between the ages of 18 and 65 use emojis to communicate regularly.

Lane Brown, a former editor with The Christian Science Monitor, swore off emojis for a month last year after she felt she over- utilized the images to communicate. Brown said she was tired of sounding "like a middle-school cheerleader" when checking in on a friend via text message.

Jonathan Jones, an art writer for The Guardian, says emojis' similarity to Egyptians' hieroglyphics signals a step back for human evolution.

"The Greek alphabet was much more productive than all those lovely Egyptian pictures. That is why there is no ancient Egyptian Iliad or Odyssey," he argues. "In other words, there are harsh limits on what you can say with pictures. The written word is infinitely more adaptable."

But not all linguistic experts say our emoji obsession is a bad thing.

Emojis are usually used positively, suggesting a void in the written language. "The overall thing we noticed is that 70 percent of all emojis sent are positive and so that's probably a good thing that we're talking to each other positively and using emoji to enhance that," Joe Braidwood, chief marketing officer for SwiftKey, told NPR. …

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