‘Overshare’ is Chambers Dictionary’s word of the year 2014
Chambers Dictionary announces its word of the year: ‘overshare’ tops a shortlist featuring ‘photobomb’, ‘selfie’ and ‘bashtag’
noun: photo bomb
The Guardian, Thursday 23 October 2014
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Runnerup … Benedict Cumberbatch photobombs U2 at this year's Oscars. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters
Described as “beautifully British”, the “subtle yet devastating” put-down “overshare” was today named word of the year by the Chambers Dictionary. Collins, however, has plumped for “photobomb” as its choice, citing the word’s 100% increase in usage over the past year.
“Photobomb”, defined by Collins as “to intrude into the background of a photograph without the subject’s knowledge”, also made the final shortlist for Chambers, but was edged out by “overshare”. Used to condemn everything from Kim Kardashian’s closeups of her anatomy to public displays of affection on Facebook, “overshare” is defined by Chambers as “to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life”. Whether it is updates on a toddler’s toilet training or selfies on Snapchat that leave little to the imagination, “we’re revealing more now than we ever have done before”, according to the dictionary.
“Overshare” topped a shortlist compiled by the Chambers editorial board, which included “bashtag”, defined as “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments”, and “digital native” – “a person who has learned to use computers as a child”. “Hipster”, which had to be redefined from its initial definition as “a person who knows and appreciates up-to-date jazz; a member of the beat generation, 1950s and early 1960s” 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 and mode of dress”, was also in the running for word of the year.
David Swarbrick, editorial director at Chambers, says the team “debated for weeks” to come up with its eventual choice, with editors putting the case for different words. “Some words were more celebratory; others more exacting. But ‘overshare’ won because it was pointedly relevant to so many of the other words that were considered. Social networking has created a whole new vocabulary, much of which is captured in the new Chambers Dictionary, a miasma of ‘gripe sites’ and ‘click fraud’, ‘cyber bullies’ and ‘fraping’.”
Swarbrick says the word was “also special because, in the best Chambers tradition, it came with a hint of understatement. It is beautifully British. There is nothing aggressive or in-your-face about it. It’s subtle, yet devastating; a put-down few would want laid at their door.”
At Collins, the shortlist of contenders was chosen from words submitted by users on collinsdictionary.com, and words that have “returned to prominence this year, capturing the essence of 2014”. “Photobomb” was competing with the resurgence of “devo max” following the Scottish referendum, and the “ubiquitous ‘bakeoff’, which is now standard usage for any baking competition”, but following “unprecedented high-profile photobombing” this year, the former won out.
Citing Prince William’s photobombing of Chris Hoy at the Commonwealth Games, Benedict Cumberbatch’s of U2 at the Oscars and a Norwegian cruise liner’s of George Clooney’s wedding in Venice, Collins dated the word’s first usage to a Google search in 2008. It was then the subject of a Sunday Times article in May 2009, before becoming widely used in 2012 following incidents including Tina Fey photobombing at the Golden Globe awards in January 2012.
“The main spike in the Bank of English occurs in early August 2012 relating to the ‘Queen photobomb’, when an official called Phil Coates intruded into pictures of the Queen at the opening of the London Olympics,” says the publisher. “Since then, recorded usage has doubled every year.”
“We had been tracking ‘photobomb’ for a couple of years but were not sure that it would become widely established,” says Ian Brookes, consultant lexicographer at Collins English Dictionary. “Its vastly increased prominence in 2014 shows the power of media and sporting events to publicise a word and bring it into wider use.”
Last year, “selfie” was named Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, with “geek” triumphing for Collins Dictionary, and “because” triumphing for the American Dialect Society. “As one supporter put it, ‘because’ should be word of the year ‘because useful’,” said Ben Zimmer, chair of the organisation’s new words committee.
“Selfie”, however, was also found earlier this year to be the word most people felt should be banished from the English language, according to Lake Superior State University in Michigan, which receives nominations throughout the year for “words to be banished from the Queen’s English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness”. “A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph’,” complained one respondent. “LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now.”
Other words that respondents were begging to have consigned to the scrapheap include “twerk”: “Bob of Tempe, Arizona, says he responds ‘T’werk’ when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings,” said the university; as well as “Twittersphere” and “hashtag”: “Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they’re really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat”.