Words of the Year

selfieBack in November, when the Oxford Dictionary folks selected Selfie as the Word of the Year, I considered posting on the subject.   Selfie isn’t a word, I might have said, it’s slang.  And juvenile slang at that.  Then I Googled Oxford Word of the Year.  It turns out that the runner up for 2013 Word of the Year was twerking.   For 2012 it was omnishambles (what the hell?).  2011 – squeezed middle (ditto).  Hmmm.  A little research revealed that the Oxford word of the year is based on its coming into prominent usage in the past year AND that there is no assurance that the Word of the Year will be added to the Oxford Dictionary.   That made me feel better.  Then I saw the picture of the president of the United States posing for a Selfie with with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt … at the memorial service for Nelson Mandella.  I’m not picking on Mr.Obama.  He is a product of his times and his generation and it beats the hell out of sex games with a cigar and an intern in the Oval Office.  But it did make me wonder if Selfie isn’t in fact the perfect word to describe the state of the species in 2013.

I know.   Taking pictures of yourself … and family or friends …has been going on for a long time, even back when cameras required film.  Yeah, I know, filmYounger Eyes, you don’t know what that is.  Google it.  Back then, I used a tripod or a camera placed on a convenient surface then used a time delayed shutter so I could run into the picture.  Yeah, quaint. Maybe I asked a passerby to snap a photo.  But often, I’d just take a picture of my family and friends.   It wasn’t about me, after all.  I knew I was there, behind the camera.  And I’d place the camera to show the background, whether it was a vacation spot or an event like a wedding, because that was important, too.  But look at your typical Selfie … it is about one thing and one thing only (hence the name) … oneself.  OK, maybe oneself and oneself’s BFF.  The background is of no importance but it may be added in an associated text message … Me and my BFF at the Mylie Cyrus concert.   Or Me and the British Prime Minister at the Mandela Memorial Service.  There’s something entirely self-absorbed about someone taking a Selfie.  It screams, Here I am, in this wide and interesting world,GinninKitty among billions of people.  I think I’ll take a picture of … ME.  Now, I have to admit, I’ve take a Selfie once or twice, though it was long before anyone called it that, thank God.  There’s this one, for example, which serves as Older Eyes’ Gravatar.   Pretty natural for a Selfie, don’t you think? —–>

This month the U.S.-based Merriam-Webster Dictionary chose its Word of the Year.  Unlike those Brits at Oxford,  Merriam-Webster chooses the word most queried in its online dictionaries, guaranteeimg that their choice will actually be a word.  Their 2013 Word of the Year was Science.  Imagine, a real word with some meat on it that I can say without feeling like a fourteen year-old.  Perhaps concerned that their choice lacked sparkle compared to Oxford’s Selfie, Merriam-Webster Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski, told discovery.com that, Science is a word that is connected to broad cultural dichotomies: observation and intuition, evidence and tradition.  A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy. We saw heated debates about ‘phony’ science, or whether science held all the answers.

Sorry, Peter, I heard a lot of shouting in 2013 and not many discussions.   Discussions require that someone be listening.   If there were an Older Eyes Dictionary, I’d likely pick a Word of the Year that reflects the growing polarization of our society, whether it be politicians, scientists, philosophers or just ordinary folk.  As social psychologist, Johnathan Haidt said on billmoyers.com, When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but… the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it’s very difficult to compromise.  Compromise becomes a dirty word.  Yep.  I’d choose Closed-Minded as my Word of the Year (it’s my dictionary, I can hyphenate if I want to).  Runner-up?  Contentious.

Wouldn’t it be nice if next year Oxford, Merriam Webster and Older Eyes could choose something like ListeningCompromiseUnderstanding?  Even Tolerance?  Fat chance.  It will probably be something like Yolo.

What would you pick as your Word of the Year?

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5 Comments on “Words of the Year”

  1. Cheryl P. Says:

    Very interesting post, Bud. I have mixed emotions about the selfie with the President, only because I expect a certain level of decorum while any official is representing our nation but then again…it’s not like he broke any laws or acted immorally so, it’s hardly worth giving much thought to. I did find it interesting that in several pictures of the group taking the selfie, Mrs. Obama was not amused in the slightest.

    It would seem that the Oxford Dictionary people seem to latch onto pop culture related words as their words for the year. Will anyone even know what twerking is a couple of years from now?(God, I hope not). As for omnishambles or squeezed middle, either I am totally out of the loop or neither became commonly used in Kansas. I have no idea what either of those words mean.

    If words were to be picked as “word of the year” on the basis of what is descriptive of the current atmospere…closed-minded and contentious would certainly seem appropriate.

    It’s a wonderful thought that the day would come that listening, compromise, understanding or tolerance would be the words of the year. Fat chance, indeed.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I wasn’t really upset about Mr. Obama’s photo, although it’s certainly unpresidential. It just got me thinking about the nature of Selfies. Jeez, I just hate the way ot sounds, so childish. But it was fun to write,

  2. Kim13 Says:

    Awesome post. I would sit and point out all that I love about this post, except I will choose to do it in just one word, “Understanding”. Great job.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Thank you, Kim. It’s funny … I sat down to write it with only “Selfies” in mind and the rest just turned up. I think that’s the best part about blogging.

  3. T. D. Davis Says:

    I love this post – particularly since I work in DC and am required to by the people who pay me to know what the latest things are that the children in the Capitol are screaming at each other about (or giving each other the silent treatment, as the case may be). My word would be “consideration.” My runner up would be “empathize.”


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