It's either the end of civilization as we know it or a terrific step in the academic recognition of the evolving importance of the visual language of emoji, depending on your perspective. But Oxford Dictionaries has just announced that their Word of the Year for 2015 is the emoji known as "laughing through tears" or "face with tears of joy." As the Wall Street Journal notes, the emoji beat out other frontrunners for the honor including fleek, lumbersexual, and "they" in the context of usage by the genderqueer and trans communities as a singular, non-gendered pronoun.
Calling the emoji "flexible" and "immediate," Oxford Dictionaries President Casper Grathwohl says, "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."
Per KRON 4, Oxford teamed up with emoji keyboard maker SwiftKey to identify the most frequently used emoji for English speakers, concluding that it was "face with tears of joy" which represents 17 percent of all emojis used in the U.S., and 20 percent in the U.K.
This means, at least in some linguistic circles, all those strings of gibberish and emoticons that you text to your sister or significant other are becoming important artifacts of our linguistic moment, which actually transcend language borders entirely. Or something.
To be clear, Oxford Dictionaries the online linguistic resource has tried to set itself apart from the Oxford English Dictionary, which is the most famous reference tome produced by Oxford University Press and which is well respected in academia because it traces words to their earliest known usages in print and analyzes the evolution of their meanings. The mission of Oxford Dictionaries is "improving communication through an understanding and passion for language," and they say, "As lexicographers and linguists, we collect, process, and analyse the living language and how it’s changing, its history, its usage, its relations with other languages, and who’s using it, from highbrow to slang."
It should be noted that they've tried to stick to the zeitgeist with all their recent Word of the Year choices. Last year's was "vape," and before that we had "selfie" in 2013, and "GIF" in 2012.
Maybe next year they should just launch an "Emoji of the Year" category if they love them so much? Just saying.