London: This was the year of vaping, according to Oxford Dictionaries, which has chosen “vape” — the act of inhaling from an electronic cigarette — as its word of 2014 after use of the term more than doubled over the last year.
Vape — defined as to “inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device” — beat contenders including slacktivism, bae and indyref to be chosen as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014.
The shortlist is compiled from scanning around 150m words of English in use each month, applying software to identify new and emerging usage.
Dictionary editors and lexicographers, including staff from the Oxford English Dictionary, then pinpoint a final selection and an eventual winner, which is intended to be a word judged “to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance”.
The concept of slacktivism also took off this year, said the publisher, defining it as “actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement”, and pointing to the Ice Bucket challenge, the no make-up selfie and the hashtag #bringbackourgirls as three examples of the trend.
“It was inevitable that vocabulary around the subject of the Scottish independence referendum would make its mark on the lexicon,” it said of the word indyref, while bae is a form of endearment which “originated in African American English and has been propelled into global usage through social media and lyrics in hip-hop and R & B music”.
But it was vape which won out for Oxford’s experts, who said that language research shows its use has more than doubled compared to 2013, as the fad for electronic cigarettes goes mainstream.
“A gap emerged in the lexicon, as a word was needed to describe this activity, and distinguish it from ‘smoking’,” they said. “The word vape arose to fill this gap, and it has proliferated along with the habit.”
There is now even a vaping lexicon, according to the publisher, with coinages include vape pen and vape shop, e-juice — the liquid which converts to vapour when an e-cigarette’s battery is activated — and vaporium, “a place where e-cigarettes may be vaped or in which vaping equipment can be purchased”.
“As vaping has gone mainstream, with celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to Barry Manilow giving it a go, and with growing public debate on the public dangers and the need for regulation, so the language usage of the word ‘vape’ and related terms in 2014 has shown a marked increase,” said Oxford Dictionaries’ editorial director Judy Pearsall.
The word was added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014, and is currently being considered for future inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary.
It is dated to a New Society article, “Why Do People Smoke”, from 1983, which described “an inhaler or ‘non-combustible’ cigarette, looking much like the real thing, but ... delivering a metered dose of nicotine vapour. [The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping.]”
Its use was tracked by Oxford Dictionaries during the 1990s, with posts referring to it on the UseNet bulletin board system, and mainstream usage taking off from 2009.
The word of the year shortlist also included budtender, “a person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop”, contactless, “relating to or involving technologies that allow a smart card, mobile phone, etc to contact wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment”, and normcore, “a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement”.
Previous winners of Oxford’s Word of the Year include 2004’s chav, 2011’s squeezed middle and 2013’s selfie.
This year vape won the vote for the publisher’s editorial teams in the UK and the US; sometimes, the international departments make different choices.
In 2009, simples won the vote in the UK, but the US went for unfriend, while in 2006, the UK went for bovvered, and the US for carbon-neutral.
Earlier this autumn, Chambers plumped for overshare as its own word of 2014, while Collins went for photobomb.