Tyler Vendetti
November 20, 2014 6:25 am

On Tuesday, Oxford Dictionary announced their choice for the 2014 word of the year and their answer rightfully incited anger among Internet users. Vape, or “to inhale or exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette,” has spiked in popularity in recent years. One Oxford editor argued that “you are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.” Though I understand his argument and vape’s importance to the ongoing conversation about technology and healthcare, I resent their decision to choose a word as ugly and unsettling as vape. (Criticizing a word for its aesthetic value is unprofessional, I know, but I never claimed to be professional.) While I realize that 2014 hasn’t been all about the good slang words (it’s been all about the bass instead), there are surely some words that would better represent our changing vocabulary. For instance:

1) Bae (n.): term of endearment for one’s significant other

Now, before you attack me for citing this word as a better alternative, let me point out that the words on this list are not necessarily words that I enjoy or would use in real-life situations, just words that are better than vape. Which, to be honest, is not that difficult. Originally an acronym for “before anyone else,” bae is a word that has exploded into popularity this past year. Pharrell has even used it in a song. If that’s not an indicator of success, I don’t know what is.

2) Slacktivism (n.): actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement

When you “like” a Facebook page advocating a greater awareness of climate change, then proceed to leave all your lights on or throw bottles in the trash can, you are not participating in any sort of activism; rather, you are participating in slacktivism, which does nothing more than make you feel good about yourself for a whole 5 seconds. The popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this summer has made slacktivism more relevant than ever before, so it earns my vote for word of the year. (Disclaimer: Slacktivism movements are usually not as successful as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in case you were debating whether or not you should retweet that status about global warming. How about you recycle some bottles instead?)

3) Swerve (v.): avoiding someone you don’t like; (n.) replacement for swag

Let’s get something straight: I would never use this word. Anything remotely similar to swag would never come out of my mouth, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Internet is filled with “swerve” memes and expressions, and that I’ve heard it used significantly more than I’ve heard “vape.” Does vape have its own meme? No. (That’s not an invitation.) Does that mean swerve should be considered a more legitimate contender for word of the year? I don’t know, but it has to mean something, right?

4) YAASSSSSS (n.): alternative for “yes”

YASSSS (plus or minus a few “a”s or “s”s) is another way to say yes, for people who don’t know how to contain their excitement to lower case letters. (Examples of people who would probably use YAAASSSS: a spider on a ceiling fan, people who win at Jeopardy!, cats who find a sunny windowsill to nap on, babies with binkies, etc.). Anyone who has every gotten an email from me knows that I have no problem with enthusiasm. (Having every sentence end in an exclamation point is totally normal!!!)

5) Fam (n.): short for family

Though this isn’t exactly a new term, as some websites would have you believe, it’s one of my favorites. Plus, unlike vape, it has the potential to make a great rhyme for a children’s book. “The young beaver ate ham in the dam with his fam.” All Oxford “Word of the Year” picks should follow this criteria.

Looking on the bright side, vape may not be so bad compared to some of the runner ups, like indyref, short for “independence referendum,” a word that looks like the result of a lazy 5th grader who got too lazy to write the full phrase and decided to make up his own. Normcore, “wearing intentionally bad clothing as a fashion statement,” was another option, which would’ve gained my full support had the definition been “wearing intentionally bad clothing because it’s almost December and you gave up looking nice for class three Decembers ago.” Considering these other options, maybe we actually dodged a bullet with “vape.” I mean, at least they didn’t choose “basic.”

Do you agree with Oxford’s word of the year? If not, what word would you nominate?

Featured image via.

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