This year Oxford Dictionary, arguably the world’s most respected English language reference, partnered with SwiftKey, the tech company behind predictive text, to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world. Tears Of Joy was chosen because it was the most-used emoji globally in 2015. SwiftKey identified that it made up 20 per cent of all the emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17 per cent of those in the US: a sharp rise from 4 and 9 per cent respectively in 2014.
Oxford’s word of the year is its biggest continuing PR campaign. Built for link bait, this campaign engages English word nerds the world over. Such nerds are often journalist and so, just in advance of the holiday season, it’s the annual campaign that just keeps giving by delivering massive, global media coverage.
Recent past words of the year have derived from social media and Internet parlances. Last year was the year of ‘vape’ and in 2013 it was ‘selfie’. Both these selections got massive traction in social media, taking Oxford’s campaign to the next level.
This year, by choosing an emoji instead of a word made up of letters, Oxford just might ‘break the Internet’. Emojis work across all languages and cultures and are understood by Millennials and Boomers alike.
Those word nerds, however, will frown and pout, but in the end they’ll have to forgive Oxford. Language is like a living, breathing being. It grows and changes and adapts to its environment. The Oxford Dictionary offers only a snapshot to capture a moment in time. And this it is the moment of the emoji.