Terms like ‘vape’, ‘culture’, ‘photobomb’, ‘overshare’ and ‘heart emoji’ were significant throughout the past 12 months and have been named top words of 2014 by various dictionaries and language monitoring groups.
While Oxford Dictionaries chose vape, an abbreviation of vapour or vaporise; Merriam-Webster Inc., named as its top word culture, which dominated the headlines this year, on topics ranging from ‘celebrity culture’ to ‘rape culture’ to ‘company culture’.
Photobomb, defined as “to intrude into the background of a photograph without the subject’s knowledge”, was Collins English Dictionary top word; Chambers Dictionary’s choice was overshare, which means “to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life”; and the Global Language Monitor named heart emoji, the ideograph for love, as its word of 2014.
The OxfordDictionaries.com definition was added in August 2014: the verb means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device’, while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape. The associated noun vaping is also listed.
As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. Usage of vape peaked in April 2014 around the time that the UK’s first ‘vape cafe’ (The Vape Lab in Shoreditch, London) opened its doors, and protests were held in response to New York City banning indoor vaping.
Vape was chosen over words like ‘bae’ (endearment for one’s romantic partner), ‘budtender’ (person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop) and ‘indyref’ (abbreviation of ‘independence referendum’, in reference to the referendum on Scottish independence).
Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading dictionary publisher, compiled its list by analysing the top lookups in its online dictionary and focusing on the words that showed the greatest increase in lookups this year as compared to last year.
“Culture is a word that we seem to be relying on more and more. It allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group with seriousness,” explains Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster.
“And it’s efficient: we talk about the ‘culture’ of a group rather than saying ‘the typical habits, attitudes, and behaviours’ of that group. So we think that it may be the increased use of this newer sense of the word culture that is catching people’s attention and driving the volume of lookups,” he says.
Culture was chosen over words like nostalgia, insidious, legacy, feminism, surreptitious and morbidity.