"Selfie--a photograph that one has taken of oneself; one typically taken with a smart phone or Webcam and uploaded to a social media Website," was named word of the year last month by Oxford Dictionaries editors, after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000 percent over the past 12 months.
According to a CNN report, the arrival of "selfie" in our language has spawned a whole flock of wannabes, including "helfie," a photo of one's own hair; "belfie," a snapshot of one's own backside; and "welfie," a selfie taken while working out (the most annoying kind). There's also the "drelfie," taken when drunk.
To take the crown, selfie beat out a host of other contenders, including schmeat (synthetic meat) and Bitcoin (digital currency). CNN said there are 57 million photos bearing its hashtag, #selfie, on Instagram alone.
Olive Arcano Alasaas, a junior at Maui High School in Kahului, brings definition to the word “selfie.”Photo: Olive Arcano Alasaas
This probably does not come as news to readers with social media connections who are deluged by selfies of friends and friends of friends along with a tidal wave of their dining, drinking and travel shots, not to mention Bunnygrams and an endless stream of cat videos.
While the phrase we came to hate most last year was the ubiquitous "fiscal cliff," this year's nominees are twerk, tweet and twitter.
Earlier this month, Yahoo's Year in Review (news.yahoo.com/year-in-review) chronicled the top searches of 2013 with former child star Miley Cyrus's twerking performance leading the way.
Twerk also topped Yahoo's list of questions asked by millions the day after her um performance, as in "What is "twerking?"
If you have to ask, you're most likely too old to do it and probably wouldn't approve if you did know. But "to twerk," it seems, is a 21st century incarnation of the old bump-and-grind with plenty of pelvic thrust done from a quasi-squat position. Can the end of civilization as we know it be far off?
Also on the list of words and phrases we've seen, read and heard enough of forever is Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). No piece of legislation in recent (or distant) memory has so divided and confused Americans.
To date, Obamacare has survived Congressional turmoil, Supreme Court challenges, Conservative rage, Liberal disappointment, consumer bewilderment, insurer dismay and a Website meltdown. Its public launch resembles a deer frozen in the headlights. Obamacare has also sent billions of public dollars following Alice down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole.
What's in a word? Language overload is one of the lesser side effects of that spectacle. As the extended labor pains for this promised revolution in healthcare continues with no end in sight, credibility ratings for the Commander in Chief dwindle and the patience of the public is all but exhausted.
But not all the language of the year gone by is hopelessly narcissistic, colored by sexual innuendo or bogged down in the nuances of policy. As the digital era expands to encompass all aspects of daily life, the length of its words shrinks. Abbreviations are ever more abundant both on the smart phone, in speech and in print.
Doubtless, readers are already familiar with OMG (Oh my God), LOL (laughing out loud), BFF (best friends forever) and the British standby, OTT (over the top). YOLO (You only live once) was named by many as ready for retirement.
New (to us) in the lexicon of short, short and shorter are TL;DR (Too long; didn't read) followed by INAL (I'm not a lawyer) and WOMBAT (Waste of money, brains and time--see ACA).
If you're over 15, you probably need Cliff Notes to keep up on the new lingo. Dictionaries and lists running to thousands of acronyms are all readily available by Googling "texting shortcuts."
Another popular venue for dead, tired, stale and trite language comes from the world of business and technology. In that arena, we nominate "the cloud," "big data," "cohort," "initiative," "transparency," "solution" and "sustainability" as words we hope will at least find synonyms.
Also on our top ten list of business jargon we wish to disappear are no-brainer, low-hanging fruit, think outside the box, at the end of the day (a returning nominee from last year), paradigm shift, value-added, win-win and synergy. We've also had quite enough of tech incubator, Y Combinator and any combination of the two, as well as venture capitalist and MOOC (massive open online course).
In the arts, it's time to give curator a rest. Curator is a perfectly good name for a person who selects and arranges items in an exhibit and adds a new dimension of interest to the works displayed. But this year, we've "curated" store openings, wine lists, farm tours and on and on. It really just demeans the term without elevating the coffee tastings or fashion shows to which it is all too frequently applied.
Along those lines, how about we just forget about "content provider," a phrase that has replaced writer, journalist, reporter and all those other solid English terms that imply a certain level of skill and competence.
Think about it: Edward R. Murrow, content provider? Walter Cronkite, content provider? "Yes, I'm going to college and hoping to become a content provider?"
The mind reels. Strike it from your vocabulary even as you strongly resist the impulse to smite those who don't.
Turning to the local scene, some words we'd be willing to hear less frequently (How does never work for you?) are GMO (genetically modified organisms), cane burning and same-sex marriage. We know there are those of you who are sincere in your interest and devotion. But if we have to hear about these endlessly, couldn't we at least try to make it a better read?
As for words to permanently eliminate for speech and all other forms of communication, we pick "amazing."
As one fed-up blogger who shares this sentiment wrote: "Join us in our bold quest to reintroduce synonyms for 'amazing' to those who insist on remaining unaware of them. Words like astonishing, fascinating, incredible, marvelous, prodigious, shocking, stunning, surprising, unbelievable and wonderful are all perfectly usable terms that every person should be encouraged to reach for the next time they feel the urge to express in words how amazing something is." Now that we think about it, go ahead and add "awesome" to the list as well.
RIP overused words of 2013.