Selfie: Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year

Oxford Dictionaries recently named selfie its word of the year. The announcement was greeted with derision from some quarters and approval from others. Indeed there have been few neutral parties in the war over the word selfie.

But away from the investigations of the word’s more troubling implications of an increasingly self-involved and narcissistic culture, I found myself thinking that the entire decision was really quite fitting. In fact, I had cause to look it up myself recently on the Oxford Dictionaries website: I ended up proofreading/editing some advertising copy for a German auto manufacturer, which referred to “Taking a selfy.” “Selfie with a Y,” I thought, “that can’t possibly be right.” Over I went to Oxford Dictionaries, which confirmed that the correct spelling was indeed the version with an “ie” at the end of it. I made the appropriate changes and thought little more of it, but upon reading Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement I was surprised to learn that the “y” version of the word had once also been in circulation before being eclipsed by the seemingly inescapable “ie” variant of the word. So I guess my friends in the auto industry weren’t completely making it up when the spelled selfie as “selfy.”

However, as the Oxford Dictionaries article implies, a firm pattern for usage has now been established. They are not alone in this: The American Heritage Dictionary website too provides a definition of selfie. The Associated Press also joined the action recently, with its Stylebook team answering a question on the use of the term. They advised using the term “without quotes now that it’s understood.” So there you have it: Love it or hate it, selfie has made it into the English-language establishment.


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