Selfie Defence: Word of the Year 2013

December 18, 2013 by admin

Get a Free Quote

Our Accreditations

  • ATA Logo
  • ATC Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • DIN EN 15038 Logo

Recent Updates

Translating specialist terminology: Part I What to do when a product has no direct equivalent

Every translator knows that a standard dictionary has its limits, and never is this truer than when translating specialist terminology in a domain with a specific vocabulary. In an ideal scenario the translator will have direct experience of… Read More

Oxford Dictionaries are in desperate need of a bit of selfie-defence after naming ‘selfie’ its Word of the Year in November 2013.

 

It was well-publicised last month that Oxford Dictionaries announced that their Word of the Year for 2013 would be ‘selfie’. Up and down the English-speaking world, people exclaimed their discontent that such a monolith of the English language would ignore far more quintessentially English words for something as lowbrow and common as ‘selfie’.

 

Well, such people haven’t really taken the time to reflect upon the reasons behind this choice. Perhaps if, instead of keeping seflie at arm’s length, they gave some thought to the staggering momentum with which this little word has bulldozed its way into not only the spoken, but the written language too of the entire English-speaking world, they would start to see selfie as more worthy a winner: Lexicographers at the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme have recorded a 17,000% increase in its usage between October 2012 and October 2013.

 

In fact, selfie has filtered into the national lexicon with such conviction that it has found pride of place in national newspapers, even without the custodial supervision of some guardian inverted commas or a vindicating italic font.

 

The earliest evidence the OED has found for the use of the word selfie was back in 2002 in an Australian chatroom. Just more proof, as if any were needed, that England has long since lost its dominance over the language it gives its name to. Well, I suppose you can’t expect to invade half the world’s countries and not expect them to send a few invasions back, can you?

 

Other languages’ desire to avoid the rampant Anglicisation that so often affects the world’s foreign languages has spawned many translations of the word selfie such as the French autoportrait, the Spanish autorretrato and the German Selbstporträt. None of which really have the same ring to it, I think even a non-native English speaker would agree, which is perhaps why selfie itself has been borrowed in many countries instead of these counterparts.

 

Similarly, people cried out in distress across social media when the OED decided to add a new definition for ‘literally’, to include its prevalent use as an emphasier. Whereas you wouldn’t catch me using it like that unless someone was literally holding a gun to my head, I can hardly vilify the OED for doing its job properly, which is to keep a true and historic and linguistic record of the English language.

 

Selfie was added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2013 but the decision to add a word to the OED is a more complicated one. The OED is a historical dictionary which means that once a word or meaning has been added, it is never removed. So that’s quite a commitment on their part and they have to be certain that a new word or a new meaning will stand the test of time, otherwise the dictionary would be full of words which only really meant something to an insignificant amount of people in the English language’s already long and complicated history. But, given the explosion of high usage selfie has already shown us, it is surely as strong a contender as any. Some may bemoan this and make unfounded, bold claims that this spells the death of real English, but things change I’m afraid, and nothing quite as quickly as language.

 

 

 

Share This Post

Comments

Add Comment








Andreea Mohan

Taylor Wessing LLP

We are very pleased with the services provided by Rosetta Translations. They always send very prompt responses, transparent prices and deliver their work product at the highest standards.

More Testimonials

Jackie Brook, Sr Product Manager

American Express

Thank you very much for your prompt and efficient service.

More Testimonials

Conor McLarnon

Maximus Crushing and Screening

I have translated multiple projects with Rosetta now and I cannot emphasise how great the service they provide is; quality, turnaround time and pricing is the best I have found yet. The qualities of translations we receive are of the highest standard and communication from the start of a project to the end is consistent.

For a company looking into translations, I would highly recommend Rosetta as first pick, as the support and service they provide is first class.

More Testimonials

Get a Free Quote

© 2022 All Rights Reserved
Rosetta Translation, 133 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QA · 0207 248 2905