Vape has narrowly beaten indyref and bae to become Oxford dictionary’s international word of the year.
Not so long ago, someone who said they were discussing the indyref before heading off to vape with their bae would have been accused of talking gobbledegook.
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But new research by lexicographers into the most recent words to enter general parlance suggests that this is a perfectly reasonable sentence in 2014.
Oxford Dictionaries eventually announced vape as the winner of its international word of the year award, reflecting the meteoric rise of popularity - and scrutiny - of electronic cigarettes.
Bae, which is used as a term of endearment for a romantic partner and is popular on social media and hip-hop and R&B music, was shortlisted for the title, along with indyref - used to describe the poll on Scottish independence.
Referring to indyref, researchers said it was “inevitable that vocabulary around the subject of the Scottish independence referendum would make its mark on the lexicon”.
Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “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.”
When used as a verb vape means inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by e-cigarettes, while it can also be used as a noun to refer to the devices themselves.
Language research found that the use of the word vape has more than doubled this year compared to 2013. Associated phrases have also developed including vape pen and vape shop, while the “retronym” phrase tobacco cigarette has even begun to resurface in order to draw a distinction between traditional cigarettes and electronic devices.
The word of the year does not need to have been coined in the last year but must have become prominent or notable during that time. Vape was added to the website OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014 and is currently being considered for inclusion in future editions of the official Oxford English Dictionary.
In fact the word vape dates back to the 1980s. Its earliest known use is in an article titled Why Do People Smoke? in New Society in 1983 in which the author, Rob Stepney, used the word to describe a hypothetical device being explored at the time.
He wrote presciently of “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)”.
Bae originated in African-American English and has been propelled into global usage through social media and lyrics in hip-hop and R&B music.
It is thought that it most likely originated as a shortened form of baby or babe, but is sometimes interpreted as an acronym for “before anyone else”. Come Get It Bae is the name of a song by Pharrell Williams featuring Miley Cyrus.
Other shortlisted words were:
• budtender (noun): A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop. This word has come to the fore following moves to legalise the drug for medical use in some US states. It combines bud - slang for marijuana - and tender - as in bartender.
• normcore (noun): A trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement. Oxford Dictionaries said use of the word peaked in 2014 and remains “very much alive” despite predictions from fashion pundits that the trend is over.
• contactless (adjective): Relating to or involving technologies that allow a smart card or mobile phone to contact wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment. Usage peaked in September, when the technology was rolled out across London’s transport network.
• slacktivism (noun): Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, for example signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website. Oxford Dictionaries cited the Ice Bucket Challenge and the No Makeup Selfie as examples.
The candidates for the word of the year are drawn initially from the Oxford Dictionaries New Monitor Corpus, a research programme which collects around 150 million words of current English in use each month, using automated search criteria to scan new web content.
Sophisticated software allows experts to identify new and emerging words on a daily basis and examine the shifts that occur in geography, register, and frequency of use.
The 2013 word of the year was selfie.
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