Word of the year 2013: a reflection of the “me-me-me” generation

by Alix Barré

This week the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year 2013 came out and it was…drum roll…selfie! The word beat seven other ones that had made the shortlist for this year, beating words such as Twerk (thankfully), showrooming, bitcoin and bedroom tax. In order to qualify as the word of the year, the Oxford Dictionary requires it, “to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” With that in mind it can make you wonder how a word such as selfie could become the word that reflects the preoccupations of our culture the most.

credit: AP

credit: AP

For those who don’t know a selfie is when you take a picture of yourself, as the oxford dictionary defines it, typically with a Smartphone or webcam, and then upload it on a social media website. They also interestingly mention: “occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary.” The word can have quite a negative aspect, for example it can be seen as a person being too self-absorbed. Some social media sites such as Imgur and Reddit have put selfies into categories: the acceptable ones and the unacceptable ones. In short, you need a valid reason to take a picture of yourself, such as meeting a celebrity like the pope, but it seems many have had enough of girls taking selfies in their bathroom mirrors.

credit: Imgur

credit: Imgur

The “me-me-me-me” generation has become used to sharing themselves entirely on the Internet. Posting personal information and constant updates about themselves has become normality. This word becoming the word of the year further proves how much we have learned to love ourselves. Sure, it is a newly coined term, but is it really the best our generation can do with innovative words? A relief is that the sensational word Twerk did not win, even though it made the shortlist. Miley Cyrus at this year’s Video Music Awards made the process of shaking your hips and butt up in the air while bending down viral. She shocked and appalled many, but she also got everyone’s attention and some approval. To be outrageous is almost the only way to stand out these days.

To come back to the word that won, the usage of selfie increased by over 17,000 % in 2013. The earliest known usage was in Australia on ABC online in 2002, a drunken person took a picture of himself after he fell and had a hole of about 1 cm through his bottom lip. Awesome, bro! The BBC was extremely generous in its article and said that the word selfie reflected “the inventiveness of English speakers when confronted with social, political or technological change.”

credit: Imgur

credit: Imgur

Last week Sonja Nikcevic posted about the top ten most read books with the title: Oh society what are you reading? Well, now I would like to ask: Oh society what words are you using? Sure there is nowhere that states that the word of the year has to be intellectual, but to think that it made the cut for reflecting our mood, preoccupations and have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance, is a bit disappointing. Maybe preoccupations in life should be rethought if taking a picture of yourself is top priority on your mind. In 2005 the word of the year was Sudoku and in 2008 it was credit crunch, words that have at least a bit more standard. Let’s step it up for 2014, shall we?


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