Pop Culture, Vocabulary

And the Word of the Year is… “Vape”

e-cigarette That’s right. Vape.

If you (like me) had no idea what this word meant, odds are you’ve taken the “just say no” approach to smokeless-tobacco.

But thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary, we now have a codified word for this newfangled mode of nicotine consumption. According to the OED, vape can be used:

A) As a noun for the e-cigarette itself: “Hey man, can I borrow your vape?”

B) As a noun for the action of e-smoking: “Hey man, can I take a vape off your vape?”

C) And as a verb: “No, you can’t vape off my vape because I prefer vaping solo.”

(Note that as I write this, my word processor keeps putting giving vape the red squiggly underline, or autocorrecting it to tape. C’mon spellcheck – get with the times!)

I was going to post some of Oxford’s past “Word of the Year” winners, but I was actually more impressed by the American Dialect Society‘s list (though they haven’t released a 2014 word yet). It’s incredible how one well-chosen neologism really does capture the atmosphere of the year it represents. Check these out:

  • 2004: red stateblue statepurple state (from the United States presidential election, 2004)[4]
  • 2005: truthiness (popularized on The Colbert Report)[5]
  • 2006: plutoed (demoted or devalued, as happened to the former planet Pluto)[6]
  • 2007: subprime (an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment)[7]
  • 2008: bailout (in the specific sense of the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry)[8]
  • 2009: tweet (a short, timely message sent via the Twitter.com service, and verb, the act of sending such a message)[9]
  • 2010: app (an abbreviated form of application, a software program for a computer or phone operating system)[10]
  • 2011: occupy (verb or noun inspired from the Occupy movements of 2011)[11]
  • 2012: hashtag (a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#), used on Twitter to mark a topic or make a commentary)[12]
  • 2013: because introducing a noun, adjective, or other part of speech (e.g., “because reasons,” “because awesome”).[13]

It’s interesting to see which ones really did catch on (e.g. metrosexual) versus those that faded into lexical obscurity (bulshlips?). Turns out a lot of different organizations make these lists – you can find a bunch of them here.

Any other favorites that they missed? Also, do you think adding popular words to the dictionary is useful in the first place, or are they just pandering to passing trends?

Feel free to comment below or on the blog’s Facebook page.

Follow on Twitter @chriskbacon

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