‘Vape’ is the 2014 Oxford Dictionaries word of the year

The word means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device’


The habit of smoking e-cigarettes has caught on fast in the past few years. Photo: AFP
The habit of smoking e-cigarettes has caught on fast in the past few years. Photo: AFP

As 2014 draws to a close, Oxford Dictionaries has just announced its word of the year, and the winner this time is— VAPE.

Vape, the verb, according to Oxford, means “to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device”. Both the device and the action can be known as a vape.

Selfie’ became the rage of the year gone by after the Oxford Dictionaries named it word of the year for 2013. With selfies becoming a recurring sight, the word caught on quickly in popular culture—there were group selfies, monkey selfies, until the selfie became a whole new form of photography.

Now Vape is ready to take the world by storm. According to research data from Oxford, the habit of smoking e-cigarettes has caught on fast in the past few years, and sales have risen. It is no more just a health alternative to the traditional way of smoking. Infact this year saw the gradual rise of exclusive vape cafes.

According Oxford, the word came in existence in the late 1980s when American tobacco and food companies, like RJR Nabisco, were experimenting with the first “smokeless” cigarettes. The term, however, existed before it gained popularity, and it finds mention in an article in New Society in 1983, titled ‘Why do People Smoke?’ The author, Rob Stepney, described what was then a hypothetical device. E-cigarettes weren’t commercially available till much later.

According to Oxford, it wasn’t until 2009 that this sense of vape (and vaping) started to appear regularly in mainstream sources, and Oxford Dictionaries editors, based on their language research, reveal that the use of the word vape in 2014 has more than doubled compared to 2013.

CRITERION:

The word of the year does not necessarily have to be termed in the last 12 months, but it needs to have had gained popularity and prominence during that time.

The selection procedure of the competition is more complex than you would imagine. Researchers use a program called The Oxford Dictionaries New Monitor Corpus. The program scans the web content every month and collects some 150 million words, that were in popular use. It tracks how often a word is used, where, in what context, and so on.

SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR

There were other popular words that lost the race

Bae noun- used as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner.

Budtender noun- a person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop.

Contactless adj.- 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.

Indyref noun- an abbreviation of ‘independence referendum’, in reference to 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?’

Normcore noun- a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.

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; a blend of slacker and activism.

And here’s a list of five previous winners of the title:

2013

Selfie noun— a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Oxford’s language research revealed that the frequency of its use in the English language had increased by 17,000% by November 2013, from the previous year.

2012

Omnishambles—a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, and is characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.

The 2012 Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the year was GIF (noun)—A lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images. An acronymn for Graphics Interchange Format, GIF is a bitmap image format, widely used on the web.

2011

Squeezed middle—the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.

2010

RefudiateSarah Palin coined the word, when she used it in certain statements on Twitter. A possible hybrid of repudiate and refute, according to Oxford the verb is used loosely to mean “reject”. Palin changed her stance on the matter, once claiming it to be a typo, and in another claiming to have invented a new word.

2009

Unfriend verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

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