Oxford Dictionaries announced in a blog post on Monday that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2015 is not, in fact, a word at all, but the highly popular ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji, also known as the ‘laugh-cry’ emoji. This is the first time that Oxford Dictionaries has chosen a pictograph instead of a word or expression as Word of the Year.

The laugh-cry emoji emerged victorious after competing with other shortlisted words and phrases such as lumbersexual, on fleek, refugee, sharing economy and Dark Web. It can often be seen on pillows, keychains, T-shirts and even Halloween costumes.

The laugh-cry emoji on Android (left) and iOS (right).

The award of the title was credited to the sharp rise in the usage of the emoji in the year 2015, as tracked by Oxford University Press and SwiftKey. Emojis have been hailed by Oxford as a form of shorthand that is no longer just the “preserve of texting teens” and that “can cross language barriers.”

In the past decade, other Oxford Dictionaries Words of the Year have included: selfie, squeezed middle, vape, omnishambles, carbon footprint, locavore, podcast and unfriend.

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is typically a word or an expression that “has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date” and that is judged to “reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.”

Oxford Dictionaries are published by Oxford University Press. Photo: Wikicommons.

While Words of the Year are often added to the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford has said it has no plans to add emojis to its dictionaries.

Regarding the selection of a pictograph this year, Sonakshi Srivastava, a final-year undergraduate studying Comparative Literature and Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Hong Kong commented, “Using emojis is like going back to our pictographic roots when we communicated through pictures. Different languages evolved but somehow the complex emotion of “laugh-cry” can only be expressed through a picture. Emojis are not new, we have had them for a long time.”

While some appreciated the choice, Twitter users were mainly amused and/or unimpressed by the decision.

Medhavi Arora is in her final year at the University of Hong Kong studying Journalism and International Relations. Her print, video and multimedia pieces have been featured in the Times of India and CNN-IBN. She is a former intern at UN Women and has additional experience in sustainability, international affairs and communications.