vape,verb: Inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
vape,noun: An electronic cigarette or similar device; an act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
On Monday, November 17, Oxford Dictionaries announcedvape as its international Word of the Year 2014 (#WOTY2014). Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that use of the word vape in 2014 has more than doubled compared to its use 2013.
Over the last five years sales of electronic cigarettes have grown from almost nothing to a multi-million dollar industry, and the habit has gone mainstream. Where in the early days the use was primarily driven by smokers choosing a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, more recently the industry has gained its own momentum and new audience. A gap emerged in the lexicon, as a word was needed to describe this activity, and distinguish it from “smoking.” The word vape arose to fill this gap, and it has proliferated along with the habit.
Its linguistic productivity is evident in the development of a vaping lexicon. Vape pen and vape shop appear most frequently, with related coinages including e-juice (the liquid that is converted to vapor in the process of vaping an e-cigarette), carto (short for cartomizer, a tubular cartridge in which e-juice is converted into vapor), vaporium (a place or establishment where e-cigarettes may be vaped or in which vaping equipment can be purchased), and even the retronym tobacco cigarette which serves to distinguish traditional cigarettes from the electronic devices.
Casper Grathwohl, President of the Dictionaries Division, explained the decision: “We’ve been tracking the rise of the word ‘vape’ with interest and it definitely peaked this year. Of course it’s significant from a language point of view, given the body of new words that have grown up around it. I particularly love watching a word like ‘vape’ create linguistic knock-on effects like hearing the word ‘tobacco’ now used to qualify ‘cigarette.’ But this year ‘vape’ also served as an insightful window onto how we define ourselves. It sat at the center of several rich cultural conversations: the debate over private versus community rights; regulation and public health; and our relationship to our visible vices. Given the booming e-cigarette market sector, expect to hear more from ‘vape’ in the years to come.”
Judy Pearsall, Editorial Director for Oxford Dictionaries, also weighed in on the 2014 Word of the Year: “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.”
The earliest known usage of vape E-cigarettes were not commercially available until the 21st century, having been invented in China in 2003, yet the word vapeactually dates to the early 1980s. Its earliest known use is in an article, “Why do People Smoke” in New Society in 1983. The author, Rob Stepney, described a hypothetical device being explored at the time: “an inhaler or ‘non-combustible’ cigarette, looking much like the real thing, but…delivering a metered dose of nicotine vapor. (The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping.)”
Thus, it seems that vaping the word existed before vaping the phenomenon. Oxford Dictionaries research indicates that while this sense of vape was in use in the1990s, as evidenced by posts within the UseNet bulletin board system, it wasn’t until around 2009 that it started to appear regularly in mainstream sources.
The Word of the Year shortlist
The shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014 are listed in alphabetical order below, with links provided for words that are currently on Oxford Dictionaries:
bae, noun: Used as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner.
This endearment originated in African-American English and has been propelled into global usage through social media and lyrics in hip-hop and R&B music. The word most likely originated as a shortened form of baby or babe, but is sometimes interpreted as an acronym for ‘before anyone else’.
budtender, noun: A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop.
The use and sale of cannabis is illegal under US federal law, but in the late 1990s, various states began to legalize medical use of the drug, and in 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use, joined in November 2014 by Alaska and Oregon. These changes in the law have led to changes in the lexicon; one new word that has arisen in US English is budtender, from bud (slang for marijuana) + tender (as in bartender). While not yet a familiar term in the general vocabulary of English, it is a widely recognized designation within the legal cannabis industry.
contactless, adjective: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.
As an increasing number of retail outlets have made contactless payment facilities available, the word itself has seen a corresponding rise in use: corpus evidence shows a peak in September 2014, when the technology was adopted across London's transport network and Apple announced the iPay system utilizing its mobile devices. Linguistically, the word may seem to be something of a misnomer: while a contactless card doesn’t have to be inserted into a terminal, contact is still made between the card’s chip and the card reader.
indyref, noun: The referendum on Scottish independence, held in Scotland on 18 September 2014, in which voters were asked to answer yes or no to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
It was inevitable that vocabulary around the subject of the Scottish independence referendum would make its mark on the lexicon. Indyref refers in an abbreviated form to the event itself, and appeared originally (and probably most commonly) as a hashtag on Twitter. It signals the increased impact that social media is having on our language, as brevity becomes paramount on platforms with message length restrictions.
normcore, noun:A trend in which ordinary,unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.
The –core suffix is typically associated with relatively obscure musical subgenres like emocore or skacore, but with the word normcore it has broken into the realm of fashion. Although the term was in use by 2009, it wasn’t widely known until early 2014, when it shot into the popular consciousness in reference to a fashionable type of deliberate unfashionable-ness. Oxford’s corpus shows usage of normcore peaking in April 2014, but despite repeated declarations in fashion blogs and magazines that normcore the style is “over,” normcore the word still remains very much alive in the vocabulary of English.
slacktivism, noun, informal:Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g. signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.
Although this word has early 21st century origins, 2014 could be said to be the year of slacktivism, as there can’t be many of us who haven’t had some contact with the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” the “no makeup selfie,” or the hashtag #bringbackourgirls (to give 3 examples). A blend of slacker and activism, the implied criticism points to the perception that little effort is involved in raising awareness in this way and that it plays to narcissistic tendencies, but nevertheless the slacktivism concept has raised significant funds and awareness for causes this year.
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the US and the UK
Oxford Dictionaries has editorial staff based in the UK and in the US. Over the years, the UK and US dictionary teams have often chosen different Words of the Year. Each country’s vocabulary develops in different ways, according to what is happening culturally and in the news, and as such the Words of the Year can be different. Sometimes, a word captures the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic and can therefore be considered as a joint Word of the Year, as with vape in 2014.
Which words have been selected as Word of the Year in recent years?
Virginia G. McDavid, Professor of English emerita at Chicago State University, an expert on gender differences in speech, a contributor to many dictionaries, and a consultant on usage and synonyms for The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, died on November 6, 2014, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after a long illness. She was 88.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the midst of the Depression, Dr. McDavid was the daughter of a fireman on the Soo line and a schoolteacher. She often related that women in the mid-1940s had two career choices – nursing or teaching – and she had no interest in nursing. Intending first to teach high school English, her advisor at the University of Minnesota suggested that she look at other types of teaching. She took courses in English, including one with Robert Penn Warren, and graduated with a double major in English and History.
In 1945, with an extra hour in her schedule to fill, she enrolled in a class on American English taught by Harold B. Allen, who studied labeling practices in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary and who had conducted some of the field work for the nascent Linguistic Atlas of the North-Central States. The class proved to be a pivotal moment in Dr. McDavid’s career; she had found the two interests that would fill her professional life: dialect and dictionaries.
At a 1947 Summer Linguistics Institute at the University of Michigan, she studied dialectology with Hans Kurath and met one of the main fieldworkers for the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States – Raven I. McDavid, Jr., whom she married in 1950. During the remainder of the 1940s she conducted field research for Professor Allen in Minnesota and, with Raven, in the North-Central States.
Dr. McDavid earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, with a dissertation on verb forms in the Upper Midwest, in 1956, while raising four young children ranging in age from three months to six years old. With her husband, Raven, she was the co-author of numerous articles on dialect and usage. The first of these was “The Relationship of the Speech of American Negroes to the Speech of Whites” (1951), a landmark in the study of African-American English.
She continued to research verb forms and labeling practices in dictionaries for the succeeding 45-plus years. With the publication of Webster’s Third International Dictionary in 1961, she was in the middle of a controversy over the usage note in the entry for “ain’t.” The Third’s entry distinguished between “ain’t” as a contraction for forms of “be” and “not” and forms of “have” and “not,” which was based in part on Dr. McDavid’s dissertation research. She was accused by a professor at the University of Michigan of making numerous errors and suppressing evidence. After pointing out that the evidence was fully laid out in a table in her dissertation, the professor was forced to concede his error.
When her husband joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1957, Dr. McDavid secured a position at Chicago Teacher’s College (now Chicago State University), where she was a member of the faculty until she retired in 1985. She taught courses on English composition, language and culture, and the history of English. Her book Writing Today’s English (1977, with Macklin Thomas) was prepared for her Chicago State students whose experience with Standard English was limited by their racially-segregated experience on the South Side of Chicago. Even after her retirement, Dr. McDavid continued her research, focusing on verb forms in the Linguistic Atlas materials, specifically differences between men and women in the choice of irregular verbs. Her work indicated that women in both the least educated group and those with a high school education consistently used Standard English forms more than men with the same education level. Among informants with a college education, there was little difference.
In the late 1970s, Dr. McDavid, her husband Raven, and a colleague at Chicago State, Dr. Thomas J. Creswell, were asked to be consultants on usage and dialect labels and notes for TheRandom House Dictionary of the English Language (second edition, unabridged). Work on this project began in early 1984. Following Raven’s death in October, 1984, this work was completed by Dr. McDavid and Dr. Creswell in 1987. Dr. McDavid remained Associate Editor of the Linguistic Atlas Project until her death. She was a long-time and prominent member of the American Dialect Society.
Dr. McDavid is survived by her sons, Charlie Jonas (Joan Collins) of San Francisco, Glenn McDavid (Mia) of Roseville, Minnesota, Raven I. McDavid III (Anne) of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Tom McDavid (Joy Werlink) of Auburn, Washington; her daughter, Ann McDavid Reif (Tom Reif) of Aurora, Colorado; thirteen grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. A memorial service will be held on January 2, 2015 in Colorado Springs.
[Thanks to Grant Barrett for permission to repost this memorial from the American Dialect Society's website.]
Dayton, Ohio attorney Ronald Burdge has been compiling an online dictionary of the slang (or jargon) used by car dealers. His interest began, according to a recent Auto News blog, when he obtained a preliminary list from a dealership during the course of a "Lemon Law" consumer protection lawsuit, and he has been expanding and updating it for fifteen years. Take a look at Chris Bruce's blog entry, "Car dealer lingo dictionary is filled with gold balls and green peas," which that Burdge includes some "commonly understood and innocuous terms, including 'low ball' and 'tire kicker.' Beater, iron, sled and toad are all words for a worthless old jalopy." Gold balls indicates a customer with good credit and a substantial downpayment, and a chiseler is a tough negotiator. Other terms indicate some unscrupulous practices in the trade.
Arika Okrent, in the blog Mental Floss, has recently written about the use of the family tree figure to explain the historical relations among languages. Along with the brief discussion of the topic, she provides a lovely visual illustration by webcomic artist Minna Sundberg. Okrent calls it an "antidote to the boring linguistic tree diagram." See for yourself here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/59665/feast-your-eyes-beautiful-linguistic-family-tree.
The Linguistic Society of America has honored DSNA stalwart Ben Zimmer with its first Linguistic Journalism Award. Zimmer is known for his contributions to North-American media, currently as language columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe (and previously for the New York Times). He has also contributed to The Atlantic, Slate's "Lexicon Valley" blog, and Language Log, and in his spare time he is the executive producer of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus.
Zimmer has also been active as a word maven on National Public Radio, most recently on "Weekend Edition" for October 25, when he spoke about terms used to describe problems with the Affordable Heathcare Act, "Gremlins and Glitches: Lexical Queries after Healthcare.gov," available here.