“Selfie” has been declared the word of the year by Oxford
Dictionaries after the frequency of its use increased by a reported
17,000 percent over the past 12 months.
Selfies – a word that describes photographs that people have taken
of themselves, usually with a smartphone or webcam – have become a
phenomenon. Thousands of people, from high-profile celebrities to
regular members of the public, seem to be succumbing to the urge to
snap themselves and post the resulting pictures online.
The word had evolved from a niche term used predominantly on social
media sites into a mainstream word for a self-portrait, the editors of
Oxford Dictionaries said.
It has also reportedly produced a number of spin-off words, ranging
from “helfie” (a hairstyle selfie) to “bookshelfie” (a picture taken
for literary self-promotion).
Oxford Dictionaries’ annual award celebrates words that have become
prominent over the previous 12 months, although they do not have to
have been coined during that time. It can, therefore, show the speed at
which the English language is evolving in response to social, political
and technological changes.
Another nominee for this year’s award was “twerking”, which
describes a dance move most famously performed by Miley Cyrus at the
MTV Video Music Awards. “Binge-watch”, meaning to watch a lot of
television in one sitting, was also on the shortlist. “Showrooming”,
the growing trend of looking at a product in a shop before buying it
more cheaply online, and “bitcoin”, a digital currency, were also in
Previous US winners include “gif” in 2012 and “unfriend” in 2009.
Oxford Dictionaries calculates how often words are used with a
special research program, which collects 150 million words currently in
use in the English language online every month. Through this it can
monitor the emergence of new words, and also spot changes in the
frequency or geography of the usage of any of those words.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, the earliest trace of the word
selfie can be found in an Australian internet forum from 2002, when a
man used it in relation to a picture he had posted of himself showing
injuries to his face from tripping over. It was added to Oxford
Dictionaries Online in August, but is yet to make an appearance in The
Oxford English Dictionary.
“We can see a phenomenal trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and
this helped to cement its selection as word of the year,” said Judy
Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries. “In early
examples the word was often spelt with a ‘y’, but the ‘ie’ form is more
common today and has become the accepted spelling.”
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1. Can you think of any reasons why “selfies” have become so popular
2. Should new words be included in the dictionary or not? Explain your
3. Why are dictionaries important? Do you think they will always be
4. If you could include any word in the dictionary, what would you