The results are out, the Oxford English Dictionary has named their ‘word of the year’ and this year the winner is ‘vape’. The word referring to an e-cig, or alternative smoking device has led to the rise of an entire lexicon of new ‘vaping’ vocabulary.
In order to be honored as ‘Word of the Year’ by the Oxford English Dictionary, which employs the world’s most esteemed collection of linguists, a word must do more than merely rack up search numbers. The word must be reflective of that year, of the events and people, and furthermore it should be the genesis of an entirely new set of words.
This year’s Word of the Year, ‘vape’, embodies not only the meteoric rise of e-cigs but also the historic legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and D.C., where a vape pen is often the preferred method of smoking (if you haven’t used one yet, get on that).
From TIME Magazine:
Vape, a verb meaning to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device, beat out everything from bae to normcore. It was coined in the late 1980s when companies like RJR Nabisco were experimenting with the first “smokeless” cigarettes. But, after years of languishing, the word is back, needed to distinguish a growing new habit from old-fashioned smoking. According to Oxford’s calculations, usage of vape, which as a noun can refer to an e-cigarette or similar device, more than doubled between 2013 and 2014.
“It’s hard to anticipate what’s going to capture the public imagination at any given moment,” Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford’s dictionaries division, tells TIME. “Vape only really caught on a few years ago and now we’ve seen a dramatic rise.”
On the surface, vape’s selection captures the exploding popularity of e-cigarettes—which, effectively invented in 2003, are suddenly close to a $2 billion market. It also memorializes this year’s historic opening of legal marijuana shops, where residents in Colorado and Washington state can buy vape pens (devices that vaporize liquids containing nicotine or cannabis into forms users can inhale) for about $60.
The word’s rise also carries an undertone of technological advancement: vape has had an opportunity to become popular because a device that seemed futuristic when the word was coined is now in the average corner shop. With the invention of vapor culture has come a whole lexicon, Grathwohl says: vaper, vapoholic, vaporium, carto, e-juice. Vaping has even forced society to throw the word tobacco in front of traditional cigarettes, a clarification that would have seemed silly and redundant a few years ago.
In case you’ve forgotten, the 2013 Word of the Year was ‘selfie’. A word that’s so obnoxious the mere mention of it makes you want to snap someone’s iPhone in half. So it would stand to reason that the OED move away from such a cheeky word and towards something less despised by the general public.
Among the other finalists from the Oxford English Dictionary’s list include:
bae (n., slang): a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner, likely a shortening of baby or babe, though some theorize that it is an acronym for “before anyone else.” The word can also be used as an adjective to describe something good or cool.
budtender (n.): someone who works at a medical marijuana dispensary or retail marijuana shop.
contactless (adj.): describing technologies that allow a smart card, etc., to connect wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.
indyref (n., slang): an abbreviated form of Scotland’s failed referendum to declare independence from the United Kingdom.
normcore (n.): a fashion movement in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate statement.
slacktivist (n.): one who engages in digital activism on the Web which is regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Also slacktivism.
It’s perfectly reasonable that ‘budtender’ wouldn’t win as most people have not been exposed to that word yet, but it still pisses me off. A budtender is the most important aspect of the pot buying experience in Colorado (and elsewhere) right now. They basically hold your hand through the entire experience by hitting you with a battery of question: how often do you smoke? Where do you want to smoke (indoors, outdoors, at home)? What sort of flavors are you looking for? What’s your tolerance like? Etc, etc etc…
They are your tour guides of weed, who are there to make sure you don’t over do it. This word definitely deserved to be in the running for 2014 Word of the Year, but I understand why it lost out.