When a word isn’t a word

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@civitasmedia.com

In the several months that I have been writing these columns, the indignity of advancing age has been a frequent topic but I like to think that I have maintained a sense of humor and at least a somewhat positive attitude. But that ends today. I feel welling up inside of me a full-on old coot rant that will not be denied.

The word of the year for 2015 is not a word. That is completely and totally unacceptable. How did this even happen? Are we in such a completely post-literate world that the most important word of this year isn’t even a word?

In case you haven’t heard, the Oxford Dictionary has named as word of the year the emoji known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy.’ This is not a word. This is a hieroglyph. It is a picture. It is, more precisely, a pictograph. It is most definitely not a word.

If in their ultimately futile attempt to remain relevant in a world that has passed them by, the folks at Oxford Dictionary wished to make “emoji” the word of the year, I would be cool with that. “Emoji” is a word. It’s a silly word but it’s a word, nonetheless. It’s even a culturally significant word and naming it word of the year would have given old coots like myself a chance to become familiar with it and possibly have made using it in conversation with our juniors a little more comfortable.

But any given emoji is not a word. It is an emoji. Dictionary people should understand this simple concept. I believe this is clear to any reasonable person so why are the folks at Oxford Dictionary having such a problem with it? Because they are even more freaked out at being left out by the culture of technology than myself and the other old coots who are the only ones who pay any attention to them anyway.

Why is this particular emoji worthy of word of the year? Why “face with tears of joy?” I’m not buying the crap about tons of research pointing toward its extreme popularity. I have never used it nor seen it that I recall.

I am not so old that I don’t come across a number of emoji every day and I must confess that I do use them from time to time. They are a particularly effective method of ending a messaging conversation that has outlived its usefulness. A big old smiley face or better yet, a big blue thumbs up, is a great way to say “I am finished talking to you and I am ending this conversation in a pleasant, non-hostile way.” But make no mistake. Neither of those two emoji are words.

Perhaps my hostility at this ludicrous development is the fact that more often than not I can’t detect the facial expressions on those stupid little yellow faces because I’m old and my eyesight is failing and I don’t like being reminded of it by stupidly grinning faces even if they are crying tears of joy. I am most definitely not crying tears of joy about this. I am ticked off and the Oxford Dictionary needs to get a grip.

And I will need to go on blood pressure medication if I don’t let this go. But it’s still not a word.


By Bill Colvard


Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.

comments powered by Disqus