Sorry Justin Bieber. Uploading your mug to millions of followers is now deemed officially annoying.
That’s because “selfie” tops the 2013 List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness. The annual list, which started in 1975, is released every New Year’s Eve by Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Catapulting to the top of more than 2,000 nominations, “selfie” gained momentum to due the convergence of social networks and smartphone technology, which enabled widespread cultural narcissism. Now with the ability to take self-portraits and send-and-spread via a host of outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, “selfie” has entered the lexicon once ruled by “amazing” (2011), “24/7” (2000) “mute point” (1990), and other past winners.
Tom Pink, a university spokesman, says that “selfie” and “twerk” (the second most overused word of 2013) benefited from being associated with images. The overuse of smartphone snaps by Mr. Bieber, the Kardashian clan, and other reality show celebrities is one example. The cringe-worthy, attention-craving performance of Miley Cyrus at a televised awards show in August is another.
“Since there is a larger image that goes with [the words], they get on people’s nerves more quickly,” Mr. Pink says. “A lot of people used the word ‘selfish’ when they were talking about what it was that made them so annoyed.”
“Selfie” also gained notoriety inside the Beltway when President Obama participated in a group self-portrait, accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s memorial earlier this month. For that moment, captured by a news photographer, Obama earned the derisive nickname “President Selfie.”
The list began as a New Year’s Eve game concocted by former Lake Superior State University public relations director Bill Rabe to promote the school’s national name recognition. In the pre-Internet era, the university used to receive as many as 800 nominations by letter or postcard. Online media has more than doubled submissions via the university website, Pink says.
This year, “selfie” and “twerk” are joined by the following:
Hashtag: Once called the pound symbol, the name originated as a Twitter tool to expand a conversation, but now is injected everywhere, from advertising to actual verbal conversations.
Twittersphere: Again, the influence of Twitter, used to describe whole swaths of the public engaged in debate.
Mister Mom: A throwback to the 1983 Michael Keaton movie of the same name, Pink says that mainly men nominated this phrase, which is back in popularity due to the rising number of stay-at-home fathers.
T-Bone: Not the meat on your plate, but a common description of a vehicle wreck.
Obamacare: Once the Obama administration embraced the term to describe the Affordable Care Act, it permeated the ongoing debate.
Any word ending in “-ageddon” or “-pocalypse” such as “snowmageddon” or “snowpocalypse.” Here, the blame can be attributed to the confluence of weather upheaval and cable news hype.
A complete list can be found at lssu.edu/banished.
Pink says that it’s common for banished words to hang around long after their popularity.
“We ask ourselves every year: ‘How long before our list is banished?’” he says. “But people feel very passionate about the language. If there wasn’t this outlet, think about how much more violence there could be in the world.”