Life is imitating Facebook. The shortlist for the gorgeously geeky Chambers Dictionary Word of the Year comes from the lexicon of social media. The winning word “oversharing” (un)covers everything from naked selfies to newborn nappy-related updates from proudly blinkered parents.
“Oversharing” is defined by Chambers as “unacceptably forthcoming…about one’s personal life”. Chambers’ editorial director David Swarbrick described the word as “subtle yet devastating; a put-down few would want laid at their door”, and that these qualities make it “beautifully British”. American dictionary Webster’s had it as their top word back in 2008; however I agree with David Swarbrick that it has a restrained Britishness about it. It’s how a population with a tradition of understated language going back to the Anglo Saxons* deals with the explosion of self-revelation that social media has caused – we use a gently insinuating word that carries a huge weight of implied criticism.
Collins Dictionary preferred “photobomb”, which was also a close runner-up for Chambers. Since I misguidedly taught my six-year-old this word, no photo is unscathed. Six-year-old boys don’t just learn new words – they have to live them. (Is the same true of eighty-something monarchs?) Thanks to our handy little smartphones, Oxford Dictionaries’ 2013 winner “selfie” also did well.
Also in the running were “bashtag” (a lovely portmanteau word for a horrible trait) and “hipster”, redefined from its 1950s jazzy meaning to “a member of the generation born in the 1980-90s who look down on their native middle-class culture, and self-consciously adopt a bohemian lifestyle “. That’s overdefining it – I’d go for “young bloke with big beard.”
The fact that many of the shortlisted words are interrelated in some way shows how a wide network has narrowed our focus. Compose a sentence from the following: overshare; selfie; photobomb; bashtag. Not difficult.
But hey, maybe I’m just “overthinking” – something done only by introspective types who would never, ever overshare.
To find out more, and for David Swarbrick’s quotation, see The Guardian’s article.
*”Litotes” in Anglo Saxon poetry – deliberate understatement. See, Professor Bradley, I did listen…