Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Vape’ Its Word of the Year for 2014

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Slang terms come and go, but when the linguaphiles at Oxford Dictionaries, run by Oxford University Press, name one as the “Word of the Year,” it could indicate some longevity rather than a trend.

This year’s word, according to the Oxford Dictionaries blog, is “vape” — which refers to both the act of puffing on an electronic cigarette and the cigarettes themselves. The word was officially added to OxfordDictionaries.com in August.

The origins of “vape” date back to 1983, when it was used in a New Society article to describe the use of an inhaler or non-combustible cigarette. “The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping,” the article said.

But it hasn’t made the Oxford English Dictionary just yet. In order to receive an entry in the prestigious OED, a word must meet strict criteria demonstrate a lasting contribution to the language.

For now, however, OxfordDictionaries.com has “vape” listed in both its verb and noun forms. The organization says that the word is up for consideration in the OED.

In analyzing the usage of the word “vape” over time, Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford’s dictionaries division, told Time magazine that the word has experienced a “dramatic rise” over the past few years.

But the word itself doesn’t just indicate popularity, said Grathwohl. “A word is just the surface of something that often has a really complex and rich life underneath,” he told reporters.

Is vaping here to stay? From a business standpoint, Oxford Dictionaries thinks so. The organization’s blog post highlighted the growth of the industry over the past five years, going from obscurity to a multi-million dollar and a “mainstream” habit.

“The recognition of the word Vape in the Oxford Dictionary validates our mission to convert smokers to vapers,” says Carol Skarlat CTO, Vapor 4 Life. “One of the last industries to convert to digital is the tobacco industry. Vape products change the game. Vaping is a disruptive technology to traditional smoking. We welcome all smokers to experience vape products. The prediction is that in a few years more people will vape than smoke. It’s great to be in a business that is changing the game of smoking and helping people live a healthier lifestyle.”

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, cited vaping topics in the news in the organization’s decision to name “vape” word of the year. “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,” she commented.

Other words that were considered for this year’s word of the year were “bae,” short for “babe”; “budtender,” the person who sells marijuana at a dispensary; “contactless,” which refers to payment systems that let users tap their cards or devices; “normcore,” or wearing unfashionable clothing as a fashion statement; and “slacktivism,” which is internet activism that doesn’t require much effort. “Indyref” also made the list, referring to the independence referendum in Scotland in September.

Last year, Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” its word of the year; winners in previous years included “gif,” “unfriend,” “carbon footprint,” and “locavore.” The site has also chosen both UK and US English language words in the past in order to account for British and American English slang.

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