How we decide Word of the Year [GIFed]
By Alice Northover
Many people are curious about the process behind the selection of Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year and I thought it would be appropriate to express this in gif form. Here’s my completely biased perspective as blog editor on my first Word of the Year committee.
You receive an email saying you’re on the Word of the Year committee and you feel so important.
But you have to wait a couple weeks for the actual longlist from which you submit your top five choices and the reasons why.
Serious thought is given on lexical interest, significance to this year, and the impact of the word. (Will usage increase? Does it capture the zeitgeist?)
But you’re ruthless in your selections.
A couple weeks after that we receive the shortlist, which contains words you’re not thrilled about.
Finally, the Word of the Year meeting takes place.
We first tackle a couple recent additions to the list that are significant and interesting, but potentially insensitive. Everyone concurs this isn’t the best choice.
We next tackle some intriguing new political words, but everyone is suffering from election fatigue.
Someone suggests a word that Gawker was making fun of five years ago and you don’t see how it says “2012”.
Someone else suggests a word everyone else hates.
Marketing is really pushing for a word, but editorial doesn’t find it lexically significant. Tension rises.
Then someone starts talking enthusiastically about the Higgs boson, but no one else cares.
The meeting becomes increasingly awkward as no clear frontrunner emerges.
Words continue to be nominated and eliminated, and we are in danger of being there all day.
Finally there’s a secret ballot by which time everyone is approaching one of two emotional states:
And the decision is made although no one seems particularly thrilled about it. You have to look vaguely supportive.
Our editorial team has to run it past their dictionary overlords, who disapprove.
One editor expresses interest in the word GIF.
And you agree perhaps this would make a better candidate for WOTY.
So you ask around for people’s thoughts.
Finally, a pitch for GIF as WOTY is made. You brace for the response.
But people actually like the word.
GIF has saved the day.
We must ensure commitment.
And then we finally have WOTY!
And all you want to do is tell people.
But you can’t share the news of the selection. It’s top secret.
And in all the bottled-up excitement, you realize you have to do this all again next year.
Alice Northover joined Oxford University Press as Social Media Manager in January 2012. She is editor of the OUPblog, constant tweeter @OUPAcademic, daily Facebooker at Oxford Academic, and Google Plus updater of Oxford Academic, amongst other things. You can learn more about her bizarre habits on the blog.
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Image credit: I have made a good faith attempt to find the originators of these gifs, but I can only in certainty ascertain those which are stamped with the originator (example: NatGeo Gifs). If you’re the creator of one of these gifs, please let me know which and I’d be happy to link back to your site. Also let me know if you’d like your gif removed.