November 19, 2014

“Vape” follows “selfie” as the OED’s word of the year


The selfie has come a long way since being named Oxford English Dictionary‘s word of the year in 2013. Once exemplary of millennial narcissism, selfies have quickly become as ubiquitous as being friends with your parents on Facebook. Let’s hope it’s not so with “vape,” 2014’s (literally) explosive selection.

Here’s the definition, which has already been added to “to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” It also refers to the e-cigarette itself i.e. “a vape.”

Apparently, people use “vaping” to differentiate from “smoking,” since e-cigarette users inhale nicotine through “vapor” instead of tobacco.  Actually, what people are inhaling via e-cigarettes is not vapor at all, but an aerosol mix of propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine, and flavoring also known as “e-liquid” (mmm faux-amaretto…)

Despite increasing regulation, vaping has grown in popularity. The business has made 1.5 billion dollars in sales as of this year. But according to Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford’s Dictionaries Division, that’s only part of the reason why it’s word of the year:

“[Vape] sat at the center of several rich cultural conversations: the debate over private versus community rights; regulation and public health; and our relationship to our visible vices. Given the booming e-cigarette market sector, expect to hear more from ‘vape’ in the years to come.”

However, the OED itself reports that the use of “vape” already peaked in April of this year. Perhaps it was  all those reports about e-cigarettes lighting on fire while recharging, or while still in people’s mouths . . . but this was also around the time New York City banned vaping wherever cigarettes were already outlawed.

“Vape” beat out “normcore” (wearing unfashionable clothes and Adidas flip-flops as a “style” statement), budtender (someone who serves in a cannabis shop), and most egregiously “bae,” which seems the obvious choice on the heels of selfie and is recognized by TIME Magazine and Canadian TV stars turned rappers alike as a popular and useful referent for your significant other:



Also added the OED this year: “First World Problem.”