Smile for the dictionary: 'Selfie' is 2013 word of the year

The Oxford English Dictionaries observed a five-fold increase in the use of the word this year and awarded it an honored place in the current lexicon.

Selfies have gone beyond being just a global phenomenon. NASA

When the word nerds (a term of endearment, I swear) at the Oxford English Dictionaries sat down to consider which word commanded enough prominence during the course of 2013 to be named the official word of the year, the choice was obvious.

In an unusual unanimous decision, the group awarded the honor to two syllables which, when combined in a particular order, best describe the paradoxical nexus of narcissism and shared social experience known as the "selfie."

In case you aren't as hip as a reference librarian, here's the official definition for selfie (sometimes "selfy"):

a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.

The word was originally added to Oxford's quite broad online dictionaries in August . Being declared the "it" word for 2013 means that selfies have been all over this year. Indeed, in its blog post announcing the selection, Oxford explained, "If it is good enough for the Obamas or the pope, then it is good enough for Word of the Year."

Some credit is likely due to Instagram for taking selfies this far, and I'm a little surprised that instagram, the verb, (as in: "I'm totally going instagram that sunset with some hella-subtle filters") has not yet made it into the Oxford vernacular.

Then again, selfies were being taken long before Instagram. According to Oxford Dictionaries' research, the phrase has been spotted online as early as 2002 in forum postings. MySpace and Flickr first helped popularize the term, but it wasn't until 2012 that it began to surface in mainstream media. It really took off this year, though -- with the word's frequency of usage increasing five-fold between March and August.

So it appears selfies are here to stay for a while, which is OK with me, but I am concerned about the creation of related terms that Oxford also makes note of, such as "helfie" (a picture of one's own hair) or "belfie" (a picture of one's own posterior).

The old phenomenon of body parts pressed against the glass of the office copier was bad enough; the last thing we need is a belfie meme. The only thing worse might be the meta-meme in response to such a trend -- and I really don't have any interest in seeing my Facebook feed filled with "barfies."

 

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