‘Emoji’, ‘binge-watch’ among top words of 2015

New Delhi: ‘Microaggression’, ‘identity’ and ‘binge-watch’ are some of the top words of 2015 named by various dictionaries and language monitoring groups with the list also including the suffix ‘ism’ and an emoji.

Collins Dictionary was the first to announce its word of the year when on November 5, 2015 it named ‘binge-watch’, which means to watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession.

Emoji is a loanword from Japanese defined as ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’.

A few days later on November 17, Oxford Dictionaries announces the emoji, commonly known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’, as its word of 2015. Instead of choosing a traditional word, Oxford Dictionaries selected a pictograph to reflect the sharp increase in popularity of emoji across the world last year.

On December 8, encapsulating the most robust fields of language evolution and user interest in 2015, Dictionary.com named ‘identity’ as its top word.

For the first time, Merriam-Webster named on December 15 the suffix ‘ism’ as its 2015 word of the year, reflecting the fact that many of its highest ranking words in the year had one thing in common: they ended in -ism.

Then on December 28, Global Language Monitor (GLM) announced that its top word was ‘microaggression’, an academic term related to the ‘white privilege’ movement that has moved into widespread circulation over the last generation.

Collins chose ‘binge-watch’ over words like ‘Dadbod’, ‘Shaming’, ‘Corbynomics’, ‘Clean eating’, ‘Ghosting’, ‘Swipe’, ‘Contactless’, ‘Manspreading’ and ‘Transgender’. The usage of ‘binge-watch’ was up 200 per cent on 2014.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team reviews candidates for word of the year and then debates their merits, eventually choosing one that captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year.

Although emojis have been a staple of texting teens for some time, emoji culture exploded into the global mainstream over the past couple of years.

Whether it was Hillary Clinton soliciting feedback in emoji or ongoing debates about the skin tone of smiley faces, emojis have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate.

Says Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, “You can see how traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication. It’s not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps – it’s flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully.

As a result emojis are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.”

Emoji is a loanword from Japanese defined as ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’. It was used in English-language Japanese publications as early as 1997 but remained rare outside of Japanese contexts until 2011, when Apple launched iOS 5 with emoji support.

Since then, usage of the word emoji has soared as English speakers have embraced the symbols to supplement communication in texts and online, more than tripling from 2014 to 2015.

The emoji was chosen over words like ‘ad blocker’, ‘Brexit’, ‘Dark Web’, ‘lumbersexual’, ‘on fleek’, ‘refugee’, ‘sharing economy’ and ‘they’.

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was determined using two simple criteria: the words must show a high volume of lookups and a significant year-over-year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. Seven words ending in ‘-ism’ triggered both high volume and significant year-over-year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism and terrorism.

The suffix ‘-ism’ goes all the way back to ancient Greek, and was used in Latin and medieval French on its way to English.

Originally, it turned a verb into a noun: think of baptise and baptism, criticise and criticism, or plagiarise and plagiarism. It has since acquired many other uses, including identifying a religion or practice (Calvinism, vegetarianism), a prejudice based on a specific quality (sexism, ageism), an adherence to a system (stoicism, altruism), a condition based on excess of something (alcoholism), or a characteristic feature or trait (colloquialism).

There are 2733 English words ending in ‘-ism’ entered in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary.

In 2015, Dictionary.com saw a number of themes emerge in the words that gained enough traction to be added to the dictionary along with words that trended in user lookups.

The most prominent theme across both of these areas was in the expanding and increasingly fluid nature of conversations about gender and sexuality.

Additionally, the theme of racial identity led to some of the most notable headlines and new additions to Dictionary.com in 2015.

Encapsulating the most robust fields of language evolution and user interest this year, Dictionary.com named ‘identity’ as 2015 Word of the Year.

In its 16th annual survey of the English language, GLM named ‘microaggression’ as the top word, ‘Donald J Trump’ the top name, and ‘migrant crisis’ the top phrase of 2015.

“The English language continues its ever deeper penetration into global consciousness. Some are wary of the consequences of a single language (of the 7,000 extant human tongues) dominating the Linguasphere,” said Paul J J Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.

“The English Language is continuing a remarkable transformation driven by new word formations not witnessed since the Bard created nearly 2000 new words during his lifetime (1564-1616). However, this time the words are bubbling up from the entire planetary linguasphere,” he said.

GLM’s top words, phrases and names of 2015 represent some five continents, which continue to confirm the ever-expanding nature of the English language, the body said.

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