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How ‘selfie’ became Oxford’s international word of the year Add to ...

It’s official: The “selfie” is now part of modern culture and the global lexicon.

Oxford Dictionaries has tapped selfie as the international word of the year.

Also in contention for the lofty honour were “twerking” (the butt-shaking dance move popularized by Miley Cyrus) and “Bitcoin” (a virtual Internet-based currency), along with the lesser-used words “schmeat” (lab-created meat) and “showrooming” (shopping for something at a store, then buying it cheaper online).

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All fine descriptive words, to be sure, but selfie was the hands-down winner. According to Oxford, the frequency of the use the word has jumped 17,000 per cent from this time last year.

“We can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013 and this helped to cement its selection as word of the year,” Oxford editorial director Judy Pearsall told the CBC.

A selfie, of course, is a self-portrait photograph, most often taken with a hand-held digital device and very often immediately posted on social media.

And most people who have either taken or sent selfies may be surprised to learn it’s not a new word. According to the Oxford people, selfie has been around for more than a decade.

The earliest selfie reference apparently surfaced in an Australian online forum post way back in 2002.

To whit: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie,” the post read.

University of Calgary linguistics professor Dennis Storoshenko says he wasn’t surprised to learn that selfie was Aussie in origin.

“It’s exactly the same process that in the eighties would have given us the ‘shrimp on the barbie,’ ” Storoshenko told CBC News. “It turns out Australian English has this habit of shortening words and … selfie was a shortening of self-portrait.”

Of course, social media was the real vehicle that launched selfie into the big leagues.

“Social media sites helped to popularize the term, with the hashtag #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004,” Pearsall noted.

But the big bump for selfies came in the past few years courtesy of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “Usage wasn’t widespread until 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources,” Pearsall added.

If anything, the selfie is a perfect merge of social media and modern technology. Average people get to feel like they’re a little bit famous.

“Especially with camera phones,” said U of C student Eric Patterson. “Why not take the opportunity every time you’re in a bathroom or every time you have the opportunity, why not get yourself out there?”

Are you among the few people in the world who have yet to take a selfie? Follow our quick guide:

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