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Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is an emoji (insert confused face emoji here)

Tears of joy emoji

The Oxford Dictionaries’ “word” of the year for 2015 is an emoji, the “face with tears of joy.”

(Los Angeles Times)

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2015 is not a word.

The dictionary publisher has selected the “face with tears of joy” emoji  — a pictograph commonly used in text messages — as the “word” (though not really) “that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”

Linguistic purists can be forgiven for being compelled to insert “confused face,” “angry face” or even “loudly crying face” into their responses.  

“Face with tears of joy” depicts someone laughing to the point of tears. Cynics might find the pick confusing — 2015 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for good news — but Oxford Dictionaries said the emoji was selected “because it was the most used emoji globally” this year, making up 17% of all emojis used in the U.S. in the last several months.

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Emojis were created more than 15 years ago in Japan, but have only fairly recently taken the rest of the world by storm. Many of the symbols depict faces in varying emotional states, but there are also ones for food and drink (“clinking beer mugs”), animals (“front-facing baby chick”) and, uh, miscellaneous (“reversed hand with middle finger extended”).

Oxford Dictionaries explained its decision on its blog: “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.”

“Face with Tears of Joy” beat out eight other words for this year’s honor, including “on fleek” (“extremely good, attractive, or stylish”) and “lumbersexual” (“a young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress [typified by a beard and checked shirt] suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle”).

(There is currently no lumberjack emoji, but if there were, it would be totally on — oh, forget it.)

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Although this is the first year Oxford Dictionaries has selected a not-word as Word of the Year, it’s not the first time they’ve selected a millennial-inspired entry.

Last year’s selection was “vape” (“to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette”), and 2013 saw the honor go to “selfie” (“a photograph that one has taken of oneself”).

The publisher’s decision seems to be proof that emojis aren’t going anywhere, so readers over the age of 35 might as well turn their “face with rolling eyes” into, say, a “face with stuck-out tongue and winking eye.”

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