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The Word of the Year

November 20, 2014

Will this year’s newest and hottest word stick around…or vaporize?

Word of the Year 2014The lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary, the self-appointed but legitimate defenders and cataloguers of the English language annually release a list of the year’s most notable neologisms, or “new words,” that gained cultural prominence. The OED Word of the Year for 2014 is…vape. It means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette.” Sales of e-cigarettes rose sharply this year, as users—or “vapers”—say its exhaust of steam instead of smoke make them okay to smoke indoors, which is increasingly illegal nationwide. According to the editors, use of the word “vape” reached peak popularity in April 2014, with 1,200 utterances per billion. (We don’t know how they know that, but they apparently know that.) In fact, the word vape is 30 times more common today than it was in 2012.

OED editors also cited three runners-up for Word of the Year:

  • Bae, an affectionate slang term for a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Slacktivism, the act of speaking out in favor of a cause online, but not really doing anything else to further that cause. (It’s a portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism.)
  • Normcore, an anti-fashion fashion statement by which people were ordinary, boring clothes like sweatpants and sneakers.

OED editors starting naming the Word of the Year in 2004, and occasionally proclaims a separate word for British and American English speakers.

  • Sudoku (2005, U.K.)
  • Podcast (2005, U.S.)
  • Carbon-neutral (2006, U.S.)
  • Hypermiling (2008)
  • Selfie (2013)

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