Debate Forum 12/29/15


2015’s language ends with a 💥

By Sarah Sidlow

Hold the phone! No, literally, hold your phone. Within that device lies 2015’s Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Now, you may be thinking the possibilities are seemingly endless; your phone holds all sorts of technology, information and access that one wouldn’t have dreamed imaginable 10 years ago. Well, you’re right. But 10 years ago, you probably also wouldn’t have imagined a pictograph claiming the year’s top word prize.

That’s right: for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is an image, an emoji. This emoji: 😂.

For those who are unaware, an emoji is defined as “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication;” the term is a loanword from Japanese, and comes from “e” (picture) + “moji” (letter, character).

The “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji, as it is properly known, was chosen as the “word” that best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015.

In addition to breaking the “word” mold this year, Oxford University Press implemented another new policy, by partnering with leading mobile tech business SwiftKey to identify frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emojis across the world. According to their findings,  😂 made up 20 percent of all emojis used in the UK and 17 percent of those in the U.S. in 2015.

Emojis aren’t just for kids and celebs. Even Hillary Clinton (or at least one of her aides) got in on the action, tweeting, “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” (We’re guessing 😂 wasn’t the most popular emoji in that context.)

Domino’s Pizza is now allowing customers to text or tweet the pizza emoji to place an order. Seriously.

Oxford’s pictogram breakthrough has many musing these cartoonish communiqués are beneficial because they are universal, and may help break down the language barriers plaguing our globalized world. Or not.

(P.S. Also on the shortlist this year: “on fleek,” “lumbersexual” and “ad blocker.”)

Reach Dayton City Paper freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at


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