Service of Being Out of It: Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year

December 15th, 2014

Categories: English, Slang, Uncategorized, Words

Nobody ever called me hip but I try to keep up to date on words. I must have been wearing earplugs this year.

I became aware of how out of it I am when I heard on NPR that “Vape” is the word of the year according to The Oxford Dictionaries. According to NPR, “In case you’ve never frequented a vape shop, the word can apply both to breathing an e-cigarette’s vapor and to an e-cigarette device.”

I could have guessed what vape means but not the contenders: “bae” and “normcore.” NPR defined the noun “bae,” as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner and “normcore,” as “a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.”

Some other words you may not know as defined by NPR:

budtender, noun:
A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop.

contactless, adjective:
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:
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?”

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.

Are you familiar with these words? Do you plan to add them to your vocabulary? Can you list other English words that I or others may not know?



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19 Responses to “Service of Being Out of It: Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year”

  1. EAM Said:

    I was not familiar with ANY of these words although I’m endeared to the word “slacktivism” which is the one I would’ve chosen. Is there a word that describes replacing commercialism with the spirit of Christmas? That’s one I could relate to.

  2. DManzaluni Said:

    Isn’t there an alternative and more appropriate definition for normcore? The art of pretending that you are making a fashion statement when in reality you either haven’t got any fashion sense OR you are trying desperately to cover up for forgetting to dress for the occasion.

  3. DManzaluni Said:

    Yeah, EAM, it is propheteering. As in “And there shall come a great profit unto the land”

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAM and DManzaluni,

    You are both amazing!

    Slacktivism will be my new favorite word.

    As for DManzaluni’s response to your valid plea–brilliant!!!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your first comment came to me second…so my last comment may not make sense.

    In any case, I love your definition, and can clearly envision the circumstances, though I am embarrassed to admit that can’t see any connection between the way “normcore” reads or sounds and fashion or clothing.

  6. Larry Kay Said:

    I was just thinking yesterday about how, as a slang term, “bomb” has reversed its meaning. “A bomb” or “to bomb” was once a failure. Now, “the bomb” means “really cool”.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I hope that ISIS and other terrorists use the current definition–though they are far from it–and forget anything about bombs, and end up with the “to bomb” part.

  8. JBS Said:

    At 74, I refuse to add new words to my vocabulary. However, I admit to making this decision while I was still working. I actually put my hand over the vice president of PR’s mouth when I heard him use it. (I’d heard it used prior to then and hated it.) The word is repurpose, which certainly wasn’t a word in my first 50 years or so. And have you noticed how many verbs have turned into nouns or vice versa. Now I sound like an old, crabby person and I guess that’s what I am! Judy

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are not crabby: You care about language and words and are an excellent writer–they are your friends.

    Words are like people–some rub one person the wrong way while not others. For some reason, “repurpose” doesn’t bother me.

    While not new, “No problem,” a response to take the place of “you’re welcome,” does. Grrrr.

    As for adding new words, I imagine I’m at fault if I hear something often enough, and it’s not jargon, I may, but very carefully.

  10. Martha Takayama Said:

    I feel very ignorant. I don’t think I have heard or seen any of the words cited in this very clever post. I am not sure that I even feel at ease with them. More important I don’t think that most sound memorable, charming or give a sense of what they are supposed to mean.

    The most clever and onomatopoeic seems to be “slacktivism”, followed by “indyref”. But then “indyref” sounds like shorthand for political science or journalism notes. This year’s selections almost make one long for the golden era of “Nixonian” linguistic expansion best exemplified by “prioritize.”

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are one of the most up-to-speed, well-read people I know so it’s a relief to see that you, too, were unfamilar with these words. I wonder who the Oxford Dictionaries folks speak with.

    I felt Rip Van Winkle-like, as though I’d lost an entire year and hadn’t paid attention to the students I mentor or the radio programs I listen to or seen a thing in the articles I read in a range of publications.

  12. Kathleen Said:

    I, too, had never heard of any of these words. They could all be contenders for the wonderful game “Balderdash” where obscure words are given and the contenders have to make up definitions. The more people who vote for your made-up definition, the more points you get. The one who reaches the high score first wins. With a group of imaginative people playing, the more outlandish and hilarious definitions occur. I heartily recommend it for game-loving folks.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thanks for introducing me to Balderdash–what fun!

  14. Debby Brown Said:

    Ah! But then there was “selfie”, last year’s word of the year…and look what exploded from that! Debby Brown

  15. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I wrote the post I kept thinking of selfie because I had heard of it when it was selected–and wondered what happened to me in just one year to become so out of it!

  16. Bruno Giordano Said:

    When I was born in Italy it was a relatively new country, less than one hundred years old, and had numerous dialects other Italians could not understand. The communications revolution, and especially radio and television, changed all that. Now everybody, except for hoards of immigrants, speaks understandable Italian, and local languages and customs are dying out. Supposedly this is a good thing because it unifies the country.

    When I came to America years ago, English was the national language and almost every American spoke, read and wrote it comprehensibly, granted often as a second language and with an accent. This was then considered to be one of the country’s strengths.

    Being New England educated, I, myself, speak English fluently, free of any regional or foreign accent, and up until fairly recently, had little difficulty understanding what was said to me or in making myself understood anywhere in the country. Lately, however, I have run into all sorts of people who speak the language in unintelligible dialects and idioms. (The same equally holds true for those Americans who speak in Spanish or French instead of English– both are languages that I also understand. What they say to each other bears an only slight resemblance to what one hears spoken on the radio in Spain or France.)

    I understand that diversity and a thriving, growing language are supposedly “good things,” but are they really if educated people cannot understand what is being said? Now you add a whole bunch of new words I’ve never heard of to the “soup,” and I’m confused and perhaps a little nauseous.

  17. Jeanne Byington Said:


    My dad was in his mid-30s when he moved to this country and he didn’t speak much if any English. He always had what I considered to be the most wonderful, charming accent, and eventually both spoke and wrote English fluently. He conducted business here and attacked the New York Times crossword puzzle with the best of them.

    Like you, I’ve found that I can’t understand some people when they speak English–most particularly people in their 30s or more who want to appear younger than they are and they speed up while swallowing their words. Annoying.

    I don’t mind new words to cover technology and inventions or styles that didn’t before exist. To take Larry’s example of the word bomb, before we had one that word probably didn’t exist. You mentioned radio and TV—the same.

    But I felt that this year’s new words tried too hard for no reason and they didn’t attract me one bit. Like nouvelle cuisine that combined silly things just to be creative and didn’t last long in the culinary world, I hope folks soon tire of this trend to invent meaningless words just to appear smart or clever.

  18. Lucrezia Said:

    Guess I’m out of it, and far too busy to care. Not in the least bit “sorry about that” either!

  19. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This isn’t an important issue in the scheme of things and I didn’t mean to imply that it was but I find it curious that all of these well-read people are unfamiliar with the word of the year and the other new words picked out by a venerable word source.

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