Two global superstars have helped the word “Selfie” land the coveted slot of being chosen as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.
Selfie – a self-taken photograph – beat terms including “twerk”, “binge-watch” and “showrooming” to the 2013 accolade, which celebrates the inventiveness of the English language.
Dictionary editors found the frequency of the word in the English language had increased by 17,000% since last year.
The term has exploded in popularity as celebrities such as Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian, and millions of ordinary people have taken to social networks to post images of themselves.
One of the most famous selfies this year was the Pope posing with teenagers at the Vatican.
The picture went viral on social media and was widely speculated as being the first ever “Papal selfie”.
An eyebrow-raising selfie was taken by Samantha Cameron’s sister on the morning of her wedding day, revealing David Cameron napping on a four-poster bed in the background.
And selfies hit the headlines in recent days when a woman from Plymouth claimed a burglar had broken into her flat and taken a selfie on her phone.
The woman subsequently realised she had invited the man in for coffee.
Oxford Dictionaries said the earliest known usage is an Australian online forum post from 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer 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.”
A number of spin-off terms are also in circulation, such as helfie (a picture of someone’s hair), belfie (a picture of someone’s behind), welfie (a picture of someone working out) and drelfie (a drunken selfie).
Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, 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.
“Social media sites helped to popularise the term, with the hashtag #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn’t widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources.”
Oxford Dictionaries calculated the word’s popularity in the English language using a research programme which collects around 150 million English words currently in use from around the web each month.
This software can be used to track the emergence of new words and monitor changes in geography, register and frequency of use.
Selfie has not yet been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is being considered for future inclusion.
The shortlist for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 included binge-watch (to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession), showrooming (the practice of examining a product at a shop before buying it online at a lower price) and twerk (dancing in a sexually provocative manner by thrusting hip movements and adopting a low, squatting stance).
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