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| January 19, 2019

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Emoji Beats a Thousand Words

Emoji Beats a Thousand Words
Holly Martin

Yesterday, those who argue that technology has taken over our lives rejoiced as they found the argument to end all arguments. It’s the time of the year where Oxford Dictionary announce their word of the year and it’s…well it’s not a word. It’s an emoji. No, not the word emoji, an actual emoji. The tears of joy emoji to be exact. The emoji “was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015”, Oxford Dictionaries wrote in a blog post. The emoji beat the other words in the short list, consisting of ‘on fleek’, ‘Brexit’, ‘dark web’ and ‘lumbersexual’.

It should be noted that this is Oxford Dictionary, not Oxford English Dictionary, which is a different part of Oxford University Press. Oxford Dictionary focuses on the evolving nature of language, and is updated throughout the year. In the last update, August 2015, over 1,000 new words, phrases and senses were added including ‘manspreading’ ‘YouTuber’ ‘hangry’ and ‘mic drop’, with ‘bae’ and ‘selfie stick’ being added in May. Oxford University Press has one of the largest and most wide-ranging language research programmes in the world. With the use of the Oxford English Corpus and Oxford Reading Programme, they track new words coming into the language, and when it is used from a variety of different sources it becomes a candidate for inclusion. The tears of joy emoji was chosen due to its increased use in 2015. “This year Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emojis across the world…SwiftKey identified that [the tears of joy emoji] made up of 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US”.

It’s getting increasingly more difficult to avoid the invasion of the emojis, with tennis player Andy Murray tweeting his entire wedding itinerary in the icons, and US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton using them to get in touch with the younger voters. Considering the impact emojis have had on the way we communicate, it’s not surprising that the Oxford Dictionary chose one as it’s word of the year. This won’t be without criticism though, there’s no doubt about that. Though the way in which language is currently evolving is both interesting and extraordinary, but is an emoji as the word of the year a step too far? What do you think?

Holly Martin

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