The Oxford English Dictionary was far from the first attempt to catalogue the English language, but in its conception and execution it remains, in this amateur lexicographer’s opinion, the most comprehensive attempt to pin down our wonderfully wriggly language. In recent decades one of the tricks that Oxford University Press has deployed to maintain interest in the OED project is declaring a “word of the year” which, in the last decade especially, has become an internet-inflected award: in 2013 the prize went to “selfie”, while in 2015 it went to the “emoji tears of joy”.

Both of these were chosen by the lexicographers who contribute to the OED, but this year saw a change: the first ever Oxford word of the year to be decided by public vote (based on a shortlist produced by the OED).

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