Dear Oxford English Dictionaries

tears of joy emoji

Dear Oxford English Dictionaries:

On November 16, 2015, you declared the “face with tears of joy” emoji the 2015 Word of the Year.

In addition to expressing the churning abyss of sorrow and loss and unwavering rage that this has evoked within me, I am writing this mock-letter that you will likely never see in order to inform you that November 16th will forever be the day that you, one of the most respected dictionaries in the English-speaking world, let down everyone who speaks or wants to speak the language and defiled and ridiculed the great tool and art that is our language and the use of it.

We are told that there was a day, very long ago, even farther than the long memories of our history books can reach, when humans lived in caves and hunted mammoths.  We do not know who they were, but the innate compassion that we have since developed has led many to imagine such an existence and marvel that they lived long enough to become us.

The only relics these people have left behind are the paintings on the walls of caves, which crudely depict the stories they had to tell.  They used these pictures to, in some way, immortalize themselves in ways that people still strive to do, even in this age of absurdity.  They used pictures because they had no real language, no words that they could use to express themselves.  They used pictures that told of events, because they had no way to express their identities or dreams.

Oxford English Dictionaries, are you honestly telling me right now, will you look me in the eye and say with conviction, that a crudely drawn picture of someone smiling and sobbing is the greatest form of expression that you could find to illustrate the events of this year, the ideas of this year, the lives given and taken and born in 2015?  Have we fallen so far that one day, when the relics of our civilization are unearthed by men and tools we cannot now imagine, they will see nothing but long lines of smiley faces for our communication and they will scoff and say, “No wonder these people fell—they could only talk in yellow circles with various expressions pasted inside.  How primitive these people must have been!”  Shall we be pitied as we pity those who lived in caves and daily survived only so they could die some other day in a never-ending, meaningless search for food, men trapped in the lives of mere animals?  Is this what you believe we are?

How dare you, Oxford English Dictionaries.  How dare you take this language, already threatened by ignorance and apathy, already crumbling in this world in which words have no definition save what suits the speaker at a given moment, and even go so far as to defile the word ‘word.’  You take this crude, childish little picture that has never meant anything and never will and you call it a word.  How dare you insult my language, and how dare you insult my intelligence, my passion, my life.

Since you, a self-proclaimed definer of words, one who says “Language matters” but doesn’t even begin to know what language is, what it means, cannot seem to pinpoint the definition of ‘word,’ let me use a real dictionary to enlighten you.



1. a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

Tell me which of these definitions your so-called “Word of the Year” satisfies, Oxford English Dictionaries.  Please.  Enlighten me.  Explain to me one way that your decision is in any possible way even partially valid.  Or is that too much?

Tell me, was there any thought put into this decision?  Did you just decide to do something shocking, go through your stupid pretentious little cell phone, pick an emoji, and go with it?  Even if we are to dignify this as something that is actually valid as a word (which I won’t, because I can’t, because you’re wrong and can’t even be bothered with definitions), may I ask why this particular emoji was chosen?  Because it is the most widely used?  Are you so shallow and meaningless as a company that you cannot even honestly think that the word of the year might actually need to have some relevance to the goings on?  Do you understand that you declared “tears of joy” the most relevant word to 2015 just three days after 130 innocent people were murdered in Paris while going about their daily lives?  We are living, right now, in a world that is overrun with fear and violence, ruled by tension, and you say that the year is defined by a meaningless little icon too small to be made out that depicts someone so happy they’re crying?  Oxford English Dictionaries, I’m not entirely certain how to express my dismay in words (real words, not emojis—those still don’t count) that aren’t profanity.  Normally I don’t stoop to that level.  Congratulations.  You have rendered the writer speechless.

In conclusion, your choice to call an emoji the Word of the Year was ill-advised, ill-informed, wrong, did not satisfy the essential definition of the title you gave it, insensitive, irrelevant, insulting, primitive, childish, shallow, and absurd.  I have lost all respect for you as a dictionary (and the comments on your blogpost seem to indicate that I’m not alone).

I used to be so proud that I called the comma used before the last item in a list the ‘Oxford comma.’  It sounded so intellectual, I thought, and just a little superior without being unbearable.  I may have to start calling it the ‘serial comma’ instead, now.


Cara Kennaway

P.S. I would like to inform you that the title of the blog post that announced this horrendously embarrassing decision is also grammatically incorrect.  You entitled it, “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is…”  However, you forgot the apostrophe after “Dictionaries’,” which would have implied possession.  I know that it should be possessive, because this “word” is absolutely all yours.  No one else wants it.


5 thoughts on “Dear Oxford English Dictionaries

  1. Truly I know not how to respond to this overwhelmingly impassioned outpouring of righteous indignation. Your devastating eloquence and all-too-apt horror are both inspiring and terrifying to behold. Woe to the man, woman, or dictionary who incurs your wrath, both now and in future. I am proud to call such a shining example of intelligence, reason, compositional ability, and devotion to academic correctness my friend.


    I’m just… I can’t. I’m so done with… well, everyone, basically (present company excluded).


    1. I thank thee for thy most uplifting and stirring praise, sir. Truly, ’tis a mighty compliment from thee, and it shines like the shiningly shiny poetry (and cravats) of Sir Blakeney. As for thy final sentence, referring to my “intelligence, reason, compositional ability, and devotion to academic correctness,” my only response is this: Aw, shucks, Pearl, you shouldn’t’ve! *blushes*


      And yes. Yeesh.

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