Well it’s official. Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 isn’t actually a word at all. Not in the traditional sense at least. Instead, they’ve bestowed that honor on the emoji known as “face with tears of joy,” pictured here.
Now before you get too worked up about it, the folks at Oxford are quick to point two things out: It was the mostly widely used emoji around the world this year and it’s the ‘word’ that “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”
It’s an interesting choice for Oxford, but one that makes sense on some level when you think about it. Although emojis have been around for a while (they date back to the late 1990s), their usage has really skyrocketed this year.
As evidence of that, you don’t have to look any further than Apple. They’ve introduced hundreds of new emojis in recent months as part of their software updates, which is a surefire sign that there’s been demand. Plus, back in June Chevrolet made the news when it issued a press release about the Chevy Cruze written almost entirely in emojis. (By the way, apparently the Chevy Cruze doesn’t elicit tears of joy. That emoji is notably absent from the release.)
If you look at all of this from the perspective of how languages evolve over time — and as a bunch of language geeks, that’s something we like to do — this is a pretty fascinating change in how we communicate. People are time poor and emojis are often a faster way of communicating ideas than typing them out. Plus, they’re awfully fun, right?
That’s all well and good for texting your girlfriend, but what does it mean for business? The move toward friendlier, more personable and engaging content is nothing new for B2C companies and it’s becoming more widely accepted in B2B land. But how far do we go with that and is there really a place for emojis in our business communication?
As a content optimization platform, who are we to say what is or isn’t right? We’re concerned with style, tone of voice, and consistency, not pictographs. And, while sprinkling your content with a liberal coating of emojis will certainly have an effect on style and tone, if that’s consistent with your brand, maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
Disagree? Fair enough. Maybe you’d be happier with one of the runner-ups? Among the shortlisted contenders for word of the year were Dark Web, sharing economy, lumbersexual, and Brexit, the latter being a reference to the possibility of the UK departing from the European Union.
Language is a funny thing. It’s constantly evolving and, while we may not always like each of the changes, one thing’s for sure. If you don’t embrace most of them, you’ll quickly start to sound dated and out of touch. Over time, you might even be viewed as irrelevant. That’s not an option most of us care to consider, so maybe it’s time to start opening our minds instead. ????