Boy, do I hate the word of the year.
You've probably heard it. Yes, the word "selfie," which the Oxford Dictionaries chose as the word of the year for 2013.
Not only is at an ugly word -- it has an infantile sound (perhaps it's that diminutive "ee" that makes up the second syllable) but it's also, to my mind, rather belittling. Someone who takes a picture of him or herself isn't just marking a moment in time, and sharing it on social media, but doing so in a way that makes him or her somehow laughable.
Or maybe it's just that people who take pictures of themselves don't mind being laughed at for the awkward poses, the odd angles, the bad lighting and the fishbowl aspect of the whole thing. If you're taking a photo of yourself to post on social media, well, you don't mind looking sort of foolish.
It's also the whole "self" implication of the word that rubs me the wrong way. We live in an era that values community -- and with that is the remarkable growth of social media, which allows people to connect with each other -- and people simply posting pictures they take of themselves (the implication also being they can't be bothered asking someone to do it) is both a bit too narcissistic and, well, a little sad. Selfie seems somehow linked to "selfish" and that doesn't sit right.
Now, I am a marketer who urges writers to take full advantage of social media to broaden their reach and spread their message. But I don't advocate posting funny pictures of yourself you've taken simply to commemorate your being someplace.
It can be dilute your message. Or just seem inappropriate. Just after the death of Nelson Mandela, someone I know posted a photo of himself standing in front of Mandela's house in South Africa. I was impressed how this person was able to make the death of a beloved leader all about himself. I imagine this person realized it himself -- he took down the photo after a few hours.
Perhaps it's both the word selfie and the selfie action that I find annoying. I'm not one for policing words -- it's impossible, for one thing -- especially since English has become the most powerful language in the world because of its adaptability and because English swallows and accepts so many other words, thus enriching itself.
English isn't language that fears losing its own identity -- unlike, say, French -- and it's stronger for that. English has perhaps more words than any other language and is the better for it.
Still, some words that are officially recognized as a word of the year may not, perhaps, live that long. Trendy words may fade away like yesterday's ultra-hip lingo.
That said, I'm all for recognizing another word, one that describes someone who pops up in the middle of someone else's photograph to "spoil" the effect. You know -- someone taking a selfie only to find that another person is also in the frame and smiling at the camera and totally upstaging the selfie taker. That word is photobomb -- and maybe it will help obliterate the selfie.