Wordsmith Party Time! Here Are the 2014 Words of the Year



by Sarah Warlick, content director

Word nerds around the world are reveling in the revelations, vociferating their approval or beginning their well-reasoned rebuttals. The most exciting time of the year is finally at hand: the Words of the Year are here! 

This annual season of lexicographic joy is pure fun, with the added bonus of an open invitation to argue. If you’re a person who enjoys watching language evolve and debating the sometimes questionable trends in communication, welcome to the party. Here are a collection of this year’s winners from various self-selected authorities.

Vape This wonderful word is both a noun and a verb. Selected by Oxford Dictionaries, it refers to the act of inhaling vapor from an e-cigarette (vaporizer) or the cloud of vapor itself, or sometimes the “juice” that is heated to make the cloud and deliver the delicious satisfaction. Vapers are the people who enjoy vaping. Oxford Dictionaries also selected a few runners-up, which are interesting as well:

  • Normcore (clothing that distinctively doesn’t stand out for its uniqueness)
  • Contactless (methods of payment that rely on wireless scanning of data)
  • Slacktivism (armchair activism such as Facebook likes or online petitions)

Photobomb is the 2014 selection by Collins English Dictionary. While the act of inserting oneself uninvited into the photographs of others has been popular by that name for some years, Collins claims that in 2014 the practice was raised in prominence to the point that it deserves the title. It’s true that this year the British royal family has been particularly active in the photobombing arena, so that may have played a role in the selection process. Collins selected the winner over runners-up that included:

  • Tinder (the popular dating app in which users swipe to indicate their approval or lack thereof)
  • Bakeoff (a competitive baking event)
  • Normcore (see above)

Overshare takes the title from Chambers Dictionary. While their formal definition is “to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life,” it’s simpler to just think “Facebook” or “Kim Kardashian” and you’ll immediately get the gist of the word. The list of Chambers’ also-rans and their official definitions includes:

  • Bashtag: “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments”
  • Digital native: “a person who has learned to use computers as a child”
  • Hipster: “a member of the generation born in the 1980-90s who look down on their native middle-class culture, and self-consciously adopt a bohemian lifestyle and mode of dress”

Other words that merited significant attention but weren’t given top billing include twerking, adorkable, Devo Max, mansplain, cronut and sharknado.

Having seen the official pronouncements, you are cordially invited to cheer or sneer, as you see fit. Best of all, you’re bound to be right. Your opinion is valid. These kids today have no sense of how to speak. Or rather, the language is growing and adapting to new conditions so rapidly it’s marvelous to behold. Totally your call! By all means, let us know what you think. Are these selections to your liking? Do you disapprove or have a better suggestion? What should earn the title of Word of the Year?

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