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Celeb effect: 'Selfie' beats 'twerk' as word of the year

Editors at the Oxford University Press make 'selfie' the word of the year after celebrities as varied as Kim Kardashian and Pope Francis take self portraits and update them on social media.

lifestyle Updated: Nov 20, 2013 13:39 IST
Selfie,twerk,miley cyrus

From Beyonce revealing her pixie hairdo to Kim Kardashian showing off her post-baby figure in a white swimsuit, the trend of tweeting selfies has taken the online world by storm. And now, 'selfie' has been declared Oxford's word of the year for 2013. Even Pope Francis joined the bandwagon recently.

Selfie beat 'twerk' -- a raunchy dance move performed by Miley Cyrus at this year's Video Music Awards -- to be named the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries.

Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year.

Bollywood also has its share of selfie enthusiasts with stars like Priyanka Chopra, Shahrukh Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Neil Nitin Mukesh regularly updating pictures of themselves on the social media.

In Hollywood, Rihanna has been one of the most ardent fans of selfies. Her selfies taken at a mosque in the UAE and in Thailand also led to a fair amount of controversy online and off it.

Selfie has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media webs, according to Britain's Oxford University Press.

Other shortlisted buzzwords included 'twerk' and 'binge-watch' -- meaning watching lots of TV.

'Schmeat', meaning a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue, was also a contender.

Alia Bhat clicks a selfie

Selfie can actually be traced back to 2002 when it was used in an Australian online forum.

The word gained momentum throughout the English-speaking world in 2013 as it evolved from a social media buzzword to mainstream shorthand for a self-portrait photograph.

Its linguistic productivity is already evident in the creation of numerous related spin-off terms showcasing particular parts of the body like helfie (a picture of one's hair) and belfie (a picture of one's posterior); a particular activity - welfie (workout selfie) and drelfie (drunken selfie), and even items of furniture -- shelfie and bookshelfie.

"Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, 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," Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director for Oxford Dictionaries, said.

The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months, but it does need to have become prominent or notable in that time.

Selfie was added to in August 2013, although the Word of the Year selection is made irrespective of whether the candidates are already included in an Oxford dictionary.

Selfie is not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but is currently being considered for future inclusion.

First Published: Nov 19, 2013 15:17 IST