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Oxford Dictionaries, the online arm of the publisher of the Oxford Dictionary of English, has announced that its 2015 Word of the Year is an emoji. No, not the word “emoji,” but a single, specific emoji.

The choice was revealed on the organization’s website, which announced “for the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a pictograph,” followed by the emoji itself, and the further explanation that it’s “officially called the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoiji,” although we’re not sure what emoji high lord conveyed official status on the moniker. Again, Oxford Dictionaries didn’t declare “Face with Tears of Joy” to be the Word of the Year, but the actual emoji itself, leading to some bizarre-looking sentences like these.

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In explaining its choice of the Face with Tears of Joy emoji, Oxford Dictionaries said the picture “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015,” and pointed to statistics indicating it to be the most commonly used emoji in the U.K. and U.S., accounting for 20 and 17 percent, respectively, of those countries’ emoji usage over the past year.

Still, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why Oxford Dictionaries didn’t just give the award to the word “emoji” instead. The Japanese loanword, made up of e (“picture”) and moji (“text character”), had its usage among English users more than triple in 2015, so it seems like it definitely has the credentials to be counted as a legitimate linguistic trend. Of course, “emoji” has been floating around the English-speaking world for a couple of years now, but it’s not like the “Face with Tears of Joy” symbol just came into being in the last 12 months, either.

Despite being a professional word-guy, I try not to take too narrow a view of semantics. I understand that languages evolve over time, and that there’s often room for debate regarding the interpretation of a term or phrase. Still, it just sort of seems like the Word of the Year should be, well, a word.

I can’t help feeling that “emoji” would have been a much more appropriate choice for Word of the Year, and much more representative of emerging vocabulary, than what amounts to an emoji popularity contest. But hey, Oxford Dictionaries is free to run its award process however it sees fit, just like we are.

And now, without further ado, the RocketNews24 Athlete of the Year Award for 2015 goes to

▼ Burger King’s Aka Samurai Beef red hamburger!

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Source: Oxford Dictionaries via Kai-You
Top image: Oxford Dictionaries
Insert images: Oxford Dictionaries, RocketNews24