Snapshots, Shakes, and Shows: 2013’s Words of the Year

Written by AJ Dent, GeekGirlCon Staff Copy Writer 

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but what about a word that conjures up thousands of pictures?

As a photography enthusiast, I have a love-hate relationship with the term selfie. I find self-portraits to be a fascinating art form in any medium, and am totally behind the “Never Apologize For Selfies” pieces floating around the internet. Thus, I was thrilled when the Oxford Dictionaries declared it their 2013 word of the year! The distinguished organization annually selects a word to add to their official roster, and the most recent “winner” and a few runners-up especially intrigued me.

My only issue with selfie is that it’s a bit too cutesy for my taste, and that renders me completely unwilling to hashtag my own online self-portraits with it. Perhaps it will grow on me though; after all, if Hillary Clinton can drop it in a joke-text, it must be worth using!

Another word carefully considered, believe it or not, was twerk. If you haven’t heard this term yet, congratulations, because you’ve been spared some painfully awkward pop culture moments and raging debates. At the same time, learning about the dance move Miley Cyrus is obsessed with is quite imperative, as it’s sparked discussions of cultural appropriation and celebrities’ varying definitions of feminism. Those topics are complex enough to spawn entire books of their own, so I won’t dive into my full thoughts here, but suffice it to say that the term itself became a spearhead of conversation, and I therefore agree that formally recognizing it is important.

The third linguistic concept that caught my attention in the Oxford Dictionaries list is binge-watch, meaning “to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession”. No doubt the popularity spikes of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more have contributed to this common activity — I know I’ve been guilty of gorging myself on everything from funny cat videos to Doctor Who episodes before, and I don’t even own a TV set.

And there’s the tie between these three trending words, I believe: the internet. Without Instagram, would “selfie” have been deemed the word of the year? How did you first hear about twerking? I’d wager that many people read about it online before they ever heard the word used nonchalantly in person. Finally, how much of the world now binge-watches shows thanks to a wifi connection rather than cable?

Oh, the all-mighty internet. I’m curious to see what words we all learn over the next twelve months that we’ve yet to hear, whether IRL or on the interwebz. After all, imagine hearing this sentence ten years ago: “After binge-watching music videos online all day, I learned to twerk, but it’s impossible to take a selfie of it!” Yeah, I would’ve been scratching my head there too.

Are there any terms on this year’s list you don’t think should be official words? How do you feel about the way slang evolves into formal language?

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AJ Dent
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