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Definition of language

‘Selfie’ beats out ‘twerking’ for word of the year title

If you were to define 2013 by one word, what would it be? Well according to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, it would be selfie.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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Yup, that’s right those expressions of narcissism that flood many an Instagram feed is the 2013 word of the year.

According to Oxford Dictionaries online, the decision was unanimous this year, with little if any argument. “Normally there will be some good-natured debate as one person might champion their particular choice over someone else’s,” the organisation says on its site, “But this time, everyone seemed to be in agreement almost from the start”.

As the organisation notes, and anyone who’s ever point a cellphone camera at themselves will tell you, it’s not exactly a new word. Selfie apparently dates back to around 2002. The first recorded instance of its use was apparently in an Australian internet forum.

2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept.

“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

From there it slowly gained traction and social media, before exploding in the last couple of years. A look at recorded uses of the word this year though, show just how much more frequently it has come to be used.

Selfie

As the organisation points out in this video, the term has also spawned a couple of variants, including “helfie (a picture of one’s hair) and belfie (a picture of one’s posterior); a particular activity – welfie (workout selfie) and drelfie (drunken selfie), and even items of furniture — shelfie and bookshelfie”.

Among the words that selfie beat out for the title were Bingewatch (watching an entire series in one go), Showrooming (looking at something in a brick and mortar store before buying it online) and Twerking (don’t even pretend you don’t know what that is).