Choice Words

Word? Image? Phrase? Pictograph – of the Year

As you may have heard, the Oxford Dictionaries released 2015’s Word of the Year. Or, more accurately, the first ever pictograph of the year. The “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji is one I have used in texts and on social media, and I have to admit I respect the reasoning behind choosing an emoji, and this emoji in particular, for the Word of the Year: because it is “the ‘word’ that best reflect[s] the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015” based on statistical evidence that shows it is the most internationally used emoji. To justify the selection further, the Oxford Dictionaries research also shows that overall emoji usage has been increasing over time.

So what does this mean for language? Some writers disagree with the selection, and even offer other emoji options that would be better contenders for this title; while others point out that emojis can relay emotions and feelings that can be lost in textual conversation (although this doesn’t mean they are accepted as important “words”). And of course, there’s the social media court that is battling ruthlessly over this issue; I’ve seen supporters, deniers, and undecided opinions on this extremely important social issue.

When I heard the emoji news, my first reaction was to balk. You have to be kidding me I thought as my eyes rolled around hundreds of times in their sockets. My classic literature loving, English major, previous Writing Center tutor, Word of the Day featuring self (which is most of my self) cringed at the though that OH MY GOD EMOJIS ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO OUR VOCABULARY?!? *Crying face emoji.*

Oh yeah, that’s right, I love emojis! I like creating emoji phrases that nobody can decipher and sending a flood of my emotions to my friends and significant other through pictographs whether they enjoy it or not – it’s a fun little way (for me) of telling them how I feel, telling them what I’m thinking, and letting them know how bored I am.

But for the majority of my conversations – probably about 98% – I am speaking English. I still need to know how to talk on the phone; I still need to know how to construct a professional email; I still need to know how to write actual, intelligent words, phrases, and sentences with letters and punctuation. Sure, emojis have gained in popularity because our technology has changed and our communication avenues are changing, or broadening across different platforms. But I’m not convinced that this threatens other traditional forms of communicating. If I put a girl-with-bunny-ears emoji (my favorite) next to a sun emoji in an email to my boss telling him yes, 10:00am on Wednesday is fine for the meeting, I would have another meeting to go to that would address why the f*** I’m putting weird symbols in my emails and how inappropriate that is.

As far as the argument “An emoji isn’t a word,” I can see where people have their qualms. However, if you type “word definition” into your Google search bar, here is the result:

noun: a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed.

I’ll let you mull over that. *Sly smile emoji*

Overall, should we be up in arms about this Word of the Year? No, because although I love discussing language and “threats” to the institution of the English language (which has evolved greatly over time, by the way), there are far more pressing issues that Facebook and Twitter court should be concerning themselves with. *Punching fist* *peace sign* *cute bow* *toasting beer glasses* emojis.


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