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‘Selfie’ Wins 2013 Word of the Year, Beating ‘Twerk,’ ‘Schmeat’ and Others

woman taking selfie

After a yearly increase in usage of 17,000 percent, “selfie” was crowned 2013’s Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries, following last year’s winner “gif” and beating out the Miley Cyrus-endorsed “twerk,” among others.

To win the title, a word (or expression) must have “attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date,” and the drastic uptick in usage since 2012 pushed “selfie” into the winner’s circle. Oxford even went so far as to investigate the earliest known usage of “selfie,” which rather appropriately was taken in a state of inebriation. They said it first appeared in an Australian chat room in 2002. Here’s how it went:

2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept.
“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

If you’ve ever checked a college student’s Instagram account, you’ve likely seen many such similar drunken selfies—sorry, “drelfies”—so it’s good to know the term is staying true to its roots.

Here’s how Oxford’s editorial director, Judy Pearsall, explained the selection: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research program, which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of ‘selfie’ in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as Word of the Year.”

One word that didn’t make this year’s short list for Oxford’s Word of the Year is recent winner of the Global Language Monitor Word of the Year, “404.” The other finalists this year were:

  • bedroom tax
  • binge-watch
  • bitcoin
  • olinguito
  • schmeat
  • showrooming
  • twerk

Congratulations to all the other finalists, who would surely agree that the real honor is just to be nominated. No hard feelings, Miley.

[Oxford, Mix 97-3]

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