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Oxford Dictionaries Chooses ‘VAPE’ as 2014 Word of the Year

Every year, lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries review thousands of new words, analyzing both the rate at which they are used and the influence they have on society. They have recently announced that ‘vape’ is the 2014 word of the year!

vape-word-of-the-yearIf anyone needed further proof that electronic cigarettes have become a big deal in our society, this has to be it. Look at it this way: last year, Oxford’s word of the year was ‘selfie’, and the year before that ‘GIF’ beat ‘YOLO’ for the title. We all know how popular those words still are in our everyday speech and the cultural trends associated with them. All these words captured the zeitgest of their time, and the fact that ‘vape’ was selected the 2014 word of the year is more important than most of us realize. But maybe an explanation from Oxford Dictionaries of why ‘vape’ was chosen will help you understand:

“We’ve been tracking the rise of the word ‘vape’ with interest and it definitely peaked this year,” Casper Grathwohl, president of the Dictionaries Division, said. “Of course it’s significant from a language point of view, given the body of new words that have grown up around it. I particularly love watching a word like ‘vape’ create linguistic knock-on effects like hearing the word ‘tobacco’ now used to qualify ‘cigarette.’ But this year ‘vape’ also served as an insightful window onto how we define ourselves. It sat at the center of several rich cultural conversations: the debate over private versus community rights; regulation and public health; and our relationship to our visible vices. Given the booming e-cigarette market sector, expect to hear more from ‘vape’ in the years to come.”

Yes, their choice reflects the fast-growing popularity of electronic cigarettes around the world. After all, they were only invented in 2003 and entered the US market in 2008, but have rapidly grown to a $2 billion market. But it’s more than that. The word ‘vape’ is also tied to more complex aspects of society, like consumer freedom, legislation and health. “Vape has been a lightning rod for a lot of discussion about the positions we want to take as a society,” Grathwohl said in the press release, referring to the controversy surrounding the vaping trend right now. The word ‘vape’ can almost always be found in answers to questions like “How much of a health threat are electronic cigarettes?” or “Should e-cigarettes be regulated by the Government?”.

The rise of vaping as a culture has also created a whole new related lexicon, with words like vaper, vapoholic, vape shop, vape pen, also growing in popularity.

Although Oxford Dictionaries only noticed the usage of the word ‘vape’ in 2009, soon after electronic cigarettes were commercially introduced in the US, it turns out the word was coined during the 1980s. Its first known mention dates back to a 1983 magazine article entitled “Why Do People Smoke?” which described a then hypothetical smokeless nicotine delivery device: “an inhaler or ‘non-combustible’ cigarette, looking much like the real thing, but…delivering a metered dose of nicotine vapour. (The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping.)”.

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

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