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"Selfie" beats "twerk" as word of the year

19 November 2013
A generic picture of an English dictionary and a thesaurus. OFFPO REUTERS/Catherine Benson/Files
A generic picture of an English dictionary and a thesaurus. OFFPO REUTERS/Catherine Benson/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - "Selfie" - a self portrait usually on a smartphone or webcam - was selected word of the year on Tuesday by the Oxford Dictionaries, based on a 17,000 percent rise in its usage from a year ago.

"Selfie" was chosen after it "gained momentum throughout the English-speaking world in 2013 as it evolved from a social media buzzword to mainstream shorthand for a self-portrait photograph", Oxford Dictionaries said in a statement.

The spike in popularity of the word, whose origin can be traced back to an Australian online forum in 2002, was based on "language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors", the publisher said.

"Selfie" beat a number of other buzzwords of 2013, including "twerk" referring to dancing in a sexually provocative manner and which was popularised by singer Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards last August.

"The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past 12 months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time," Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said.

"It is very difficult to predict accurately which new words will have staying power, and only time will tell if these words have lasting significance," she added.

"Selfie" has spawned a raft of spinoffs, including "helfie" for a picture taken of someone's own hair, "belfie" for taking a picture of your own posterior and "drelfie" for a self portrait while in a drunken state.

The word's usage was based on statistical analysis of the Oxford English Corpus, which is a structured set of texts stored electronically, and specifically the New Word Monitor Corpus, Oxford Dictionaries said.

It said that the New Monitor Corpus collects around 150 million words in use each month, using automated criteria to scan new web content using the English language worldwide.

This is used to track and verify new and emerging words and senses on a daily basis, and the firm has a dedicated team of editors whose job it is to add new words to the Oxford English Dictionary and OxfordDictionaries.com using this data. (Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by William Hardy)

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