LawProse Lesson #193: Words of the Year 2014

LawProse Lesson #193: Words of the Year 2014

Words of the Year 2014. In keeping with a recently established tradition, various lexicographic departments have announced their Words of the Year. For 2014, Oxford Dictionaries picked vape. Although it originated as an abbreviated form of vapor or vaporize, Oxford gave vape its own entry in August 2014. The verb means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” As a noun, it’s defined as (1) “an electronic cigarette or similar device,” or (2) “an act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Why did Oxford choose vape? Its frequency of use has more than doubled in the past year because of the increased popularity of e-cigarettes and “vape cafes.” But Oxford noted that the word vaping was first used in 1983 in an article by Rob Stepney, discussing the hypothetical new habit of inhaling nicotine vapor or, as it would be called, “vaping.” Merriam-Webster chose the word culture because of the number of online lookups in the past year. Peter Sokolowski, editor at large, explained that the word “allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group with seriousness.” Examples given were “celebrity culture,” “rape culture,” and “company culture.” And now for LawProse’s Word of the Year: bobblehead. The Oxford English Dictionary records bobblehead doll from 1964 and the shortened bobblehead from 2002. Although that OED entry was added in 2004, many contemporary dictionaries don’t yet include the word. But a Google word-frequency search shows that the term has skyrocketed in use over the past ten years. That’s probably because we now live, in a way, in a bobblehead culture. Let us hope that we won’t see vaping bobbleheads anytime soon.

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