First Posted: 1/21/2014
The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is “selfie.” This means a self-portrait, usually taken on a phone to post online or send to friends, a purely narcissistic act unless it’s a lecherous politician photographing secret parts of himself to woo interns or secretaries. Then it’s more purposeful and disgusting.
I’m wondering where the Oxford Dictionary was when children played the game of Jacks and progressed from “onesies” to “twosies” instead of incessantly photographing themselves in weird postures. Why is “selfies” more significant? At one time, all God’s children played Jacks.
The language has embraced technology to such an extent that the original meanings of words have been put on a high shelf. Words like “windows,” “mouse,” “text,” “web,” even “friend” have second definitions we think of first. Technologically based gibberish and lazy-man acronyms rule.
A lot of us are clueless when messages arrive peppered with abbreviated slang. LOL and BFF are two I know — plus some profanity shorthand that I don’t think I can repeat in the newspaper. I’m not really sure.
And imagine if you didn’t own a computer. I have at least four or five friends who do not as a matter of choice. The local television news, for instance, must be a total and mysterious disappointment with its invitations to view the rest of the story on a website or weigh in on issues by voting online.
I vacillate between thinking I must get in the loop and ignoring it all. Will others be LOL at me for thinking “selfie” describes something former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders thought should be taught in school?
I’ve found it is OK to miss a few techno baby steps. If you hesitate at all, you save yourself considerable expense and trouble. Most computer crazes, telephones and music gadgets have the shelf life of eggnog. It’s like jumping over a square in hopscotch.
I’ll admit that until I opened the old-fashioned paper version of a newspaper that said “selfie” was the Word of the Year I’d never heard of it. Turns out I had seen plenty of “selfies” — I steadfastly refuse to drop the quotes; it’s not my word of the year, but had no clue there was a term.
Do we now have to invent words for the subspecies? What is the word for group shots of tipsy teenagers clustered at a bar, baring their teeth and showing off their clothes? Is it “cutesy groupsies”? And how about middle-age people who think every adventure outside of the front door deserves a photographic record? Is that “enough alreadies”?
The old admonition about fool’s names and fool’s faces has gone the way of the buggy whip, since now the main social interaction takes place online, and by “online” I’m not talking a high-wire act.
Perhaps I’m being too curmudgeonly, which is my bent. When the new Swinger cameras came along in my youth, we took plenty of bad photographs of one another, wavy pictures in which the black and white photo subject appeared to be walking on the bottom of the ocean. We saved them in scrapbooks, though I don’t remember a wide distribution of the same. A “tweet” was the domain of little birdies.
This, too, shall pass. Something more amusing than taking photographs of one’s self surely will come along to occupy unimaginative minds.
What rubs me wrong is when something with the perceived gravitas of The Oxford Dictionaries — plural now because of the online edition — lowers itself to get in the swing of things. The whole world blurs.
To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.