In another sign of the impending apocalypse, for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph: ?, officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji. That’s right, the word of the year is a freaking emoji!
There were other strong contenders from a range of fields, outlined below, but ? was chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.
The selection of the emoji as “Word of the Year” is mostly due to a partnership of Oxford University Press and third-party iOS and Android keyboard app developer SwiftKey. The duo partnered to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and ? was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015. SwiftKey identified that ? made up 20% of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4% and 9% respectively in 2014.
The duo report that the word emoji itself has seen a similar jump in usage rates, as usage more than tripled in 2015 over the previous year according to data from the Oxford Dictionaries Corpus.
As seen above, a number of words made the shortlist for the honor:
ad blocker, noun: A piece of software designed to prevent advertisements from appearing on a web page.
Brexit, noun: A term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, from British + exit.
Dark Web, noun: The part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.
on fleek, adjectival phrase: Extremely good, attractive, or stylish.
lumbersexual, noun: A young urban man who cultivates an appearance and style of dress (typified by a beard and check shirt) suggestive of a rugged outdoor lifestyle.
refugee, noun: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
sharing economy, noun: An economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.
they (singular), pronoun: Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex.