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What's up with Oxford Dictionaries' 'word' of 2015?
Oxford Dictionaries announced its "Word of the Year" Monday - and an emoji took the title. Here's what that might mean for language and emojis. - photo by Payton Davis
Oxford Dictionaries' choice for 2015 Word of the Year shows that because of tech-driven means of communication, words have fallen on tough times: They're not even guaranteed to win an accolade seemingly reserved for them.

That's because the "face with tears of joy" emoji took the title, James Titcomb wrote for The Telegraph. This year marked the first time neither a word nor phrase topped the list.

Traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st century communication," Slate quoted Oxford Dictionaries President Casper Grathwohl as saying. "Its not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps its flexible, immediate and infuses tone beautifully."

Katy Waldman wrote for Slate that if selecting an emoji for Word of the Year is appropriate, "face with tears of joy" is the obvious choice: This year, the winner constituted 17 percent of all emojis used in the U.S.

Slate noted one reason for its prominence.

"This cant be chalked wholly up to the little guys semantic utility, though: He gets a popularity boost from the tendency of some users to clone him and string him into conga lines," according to Slate.

Oxford Dictionaries selected the emoji because it "best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations of 2015," Mary Bowerman wrote for USA Today. The article noted emojis have been in use since the '90s, but because of emojis' ability to reach speakers of all languages, they hit their stride this year, USA Today quoted a statement on the choice as saying.

"Emojis are no longer the preserve of texting teens instead, they have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and one which can cross language barriers," the statement read.

Chris Perkins wrote for Mashable Oxford's argument is a compelling one: Usage of the word "emoji" tripled in 2015 over 2014.

This year also saw the implementation of emojis with multiple skin tones, Caroline Framke wrote for Vox.

And my colleague Herb Scribner reported on new faith-based emojis in September; an iOS software release included a synagogue, mosque and prayer beads.

According to Vox, prior Word of the Year winners include "vape" (2014), "selfie" (2013) and "unfriend" (2009).

An Oxford Dictionaries blog indicated "ad blocker," "Brexit," "on fleek" and "refugee" made Word of the Year shortlist for 2015.
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