Emoji named ‘Word of 2015’ by Oxford Dictionaries – but is it a word?

emojiIs it okay that the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘word of the year’ is not actually a word?

In case you missed it, the OD this week named an emoji as the word of 2015 – the symbol on your phone, featuring a ‘face with crying tears of joy’.

“The pictograph was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015,” says the OD. The pictogram has made up 20% of all emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US, a rise from 4% and 9% in 2014, respectively.

The Guardian newspaper is incensed about the decision, claiming it’s not a word. “I have no words to describe it” says Hannah Jane Parkinson writing on the paper’s website. It “makes me very ‘crying face emoji’, because the tears of joy emoji certainly doesn’t deserve to be emoji – sorry, word – of the year,” she writes.

For the fastidious spellers out there, you’ll notice that she uses “emoji” for the plural and not “emojis”. On this occasion the Guardian have their spellings correct, as you can spell it either way, according to the OD.

In defence, the OD rolls out the big guns, with a guest blog from Professor of Linguists, Vyvyan Evans. Taking the Guardian to task, he says: “The smiley or winking faces look like, more or less, the ideas that they attempt to convey. So does this mean that, on this score, emoji is quite unlike language?”

So is it worthy of the title ‘word of the year’? And is it even a word? My answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’, respectively.

Of course a pictogram is not a word – end of story. But at the same time this ‘word of 2015’ has successfully tapped into a worldwide obsession with emojis, and has sparked another national debate. It’s been useful public relations for OD if nothing else.

Meanwhile, to celebrate the word of the year, YouTube vlogger Tom Scott, has made a master emoji keyboard that features over 1,000 emoji, all of which are accessible at the press of a button.

Click here to see Tom in emoji action: http://youtu.be/3AtBE9BOvvk

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