This week, Oxford Dictionaries announced their 2013 Word of the Year. And the winner is…


Defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website,” selfie joins other top words such as “gif” and “omnishambles” as Words of the Year.

Upon reading about selfie’s honor, I wondered to myself, “out of all the words in the English language, how does Oxford decide which one is the Word of the Year?” Seems like a decision that should not be taken lightly.

My guess is that they pick a word that is trendy or popular in order to gain some publicity for their dictionary. Given that “twerk” and “bitcoin” were finalists for Word of the Year, I think my guess is probably accurate. That being said, there is nothing wrong with using a word like selfie to gain a little exposure (don’t tell anyone, but that is what I am trying to do with this post).

Besides picking a popular word, how exactly does Oxford decide which word deserves the honor of Word of the Year?

According to Oxford Dictionaries’ blog the Word of the Year is ultimately chosen by a team lexicographers, dictionary consultants, and editorial, marketing, and publicity staff at Oxford Dictionaries. Software helps determine the initial contenders by scanning a database of around 150 million words used online each month for new trends and frequency of use.

“We can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of ‘selfie’ in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as Word of the Year,” Oxford Dictionaries Editorial Director Judy Pearsall said in a press release.

I don’t know what lexicographers or dictionary consultants are, but Oxford Dictionaries seems to have a sound process in picking the Word of the Year. If I understand it correctly, the Word of the Year doesn’t have to be a trendy word, just one that has asserted “some kind of prominence.”

Reading all this leaves me with just two more questions…

First off, why do they pick the Word of the Year now? Last I checked there is still over a month left in the year. What’s the rush Oxford?

And my second question…is a selfie really a selfie if there is more than one person in the picture?

If you look at the selfie slide show on CNN you will see that many of the pictures are of two or more people.  I thought a selfie was a picture “one has taken of oneself.” Wouldn’t a picture that you take of yourself and others be called a “weie” or an “usie”, or just a normal picture?

I guess those questions will just have to wait until another Wonder Why Wednesday.