In 2102 it was “GIF” — those looping animated images that the Internet loves.
In 2013 it was “selfie.” Also in running were “phablet” (a cross between a phone and a tablet), “FOMO” (fear of missing out – a Facebook phenomenon) and “Bitcoin” (digital currency).
In 2014 it was “vape” — to smoke a digital cigarette.
And at the end of 2015, the Oxford Dictionaries, arbiter of the language, named an emoji as its word of the year.
The emoji of 2015 is known as “Face with Tears of Joy.”
It’s a first for the English language — the first time a dictionary has included a digital image. But it’s the fourth year running that the OED has named as its word of the year a term strictly associated with the Internet.
As the OED blog explains, emojis are small digital images used to express an idea or emotion.
In its announcement, the Oxford Dictionaries said the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji beat out other contenders (which included the terms “sharing economy” and “ad blocker”) because it was “the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” “Face with Tears of Joy” was also the most used emoji in 2015, making up 17 percent of those used in the US and some 25 percent of those used in the UK.
If you think emojis are ruining true expression, listen up:
“Emojis are no longer the preserve of texting teens – instead, they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers.” —Oxford Dictionaries
Culture changes; language changes. Emoji can be crass representations of “emotions,” but this pictorial language also helps to illuminate intended meaning in a short text message, quick Facebook status update or hurried email. And used well, emoji can introduce irony or sarcasm into a message more powerfully than can words. Plus, as the OED pointed out, they represent a universal language.
Emoji connect us —happy, astonished or crying tears of joy.