Sunday, February 9, 2014
The Word of the Year
The word of the year for 2013, as chosen by the Oxford English Dictionary (the OED), is "Selfie." You don’t have to look it up, I’m sure. If you use a computer and the Internet, (or even if you don’t), you are surely aware of the term. Should this be your first contact with it, I’ll save you asking your mate: it means a photograph of yourself, primarily taken by holding your cell phone in front of you and taking the picture. Because it is taken with your phone, you can then send it to all of your friends. And to a lot of people you don’t know, it turns out. Just ask (email of twit) your friends. Ask the politicians or other notorious public figures who have sent pictures of themselves to the one person they want to impress, and have then found the picture coming back to them via the same technology they used for what they somehow perceived as a private channel. Coming back as a "viral" image. Maybe viral would have been a better choice for word of the year, except that it's been around far longer than selfie.
It reminds me of a line one of my staff used to use. Jerry was a great bicyclist who rode his two-wheeler on long trips whenever he could. "A car," he would say with disdain, "is a private place to pick your nose in public." Well, your cell phone and your Internet connection and your pod and your pad all fall into that category. That’s why "selfie" has made such an impact on 21st century communications. The problem is, like everything else these days, unless you aren’t connected, you are living at least part-time in a virtual world, where there is virtually no privacy. The thing is, if you want to be a part of the contemporary world, you must learn to use the tools of the times. In the past our culture was much more private, more security conscious. The image of the spy reading a message and then eating the paper (rice paper with just a bit of butter and salt, please) defines the old world, perhaps. The selfie, it seems, explains the present.
And about "twit." I do know that people who use Twitter are said to "tweet," but it seems like "twit" to me.