Cage Match: When Words Fail, Can Emojis Speak?

In November, Oxford Dictionaries selected their Word of the Year, based on emerging linguistic trends and words defining 2015, which — ironically enough — ended up not being a “word” at all. Beating out other prominent words (and phrases) in 2015 like refugee, ‘on fleek’, and lumbersexual, the emoji claimed the crown.

Officially dubbed “Face with Tears of Joy,” was chosen (yes, I did just use it as the subject of the sentence) based on its prominence globally — 20% (UK) and 17% (U.S.) of the emoji usage this year alone. The next most popular emoji used in the U.S., the “Face Throwing a Kiss ,” comprised 9% of all usage.

#Cagematch: The Verblio Network Weighs In


While you can’t argue with those numbers in terms of relevance to global communication this year, what has proved divisive is that fact it is a pictograph, a physical representation, rather than a word in the traditional sense. Emojis’ increasing usage and role in modern communication is discussed here at length, but we took the debate to the streets (also known as our writer forum and social media) to see what our network of word nerds had to say about this unprecedented decision.

In the first corner…

The Linguistic Purists: Those Against


  • “What is the emoji for ‘Great God in Heaven, England is going to hell in a wheelbarrow’? (Yes, I’m in a ‘Bah! Humbug!’ mood.)  :-)”
  • “Yet another example of the slow, steady death of the art of language. Emojis lack romance and depth. They say to the recipient, I didn’t care enough to take a moment longer to tell you what I meant to say.”
  • “I actually own three different versions of the OED, including the one-volume ‘compact’ edition that comes with its own magnifying glass. This whole emoji as the word of the year breaks my heart because I know it’s just a PR stunt by Oxford to try to stay relevant in an era when nobody buys dictionaries any more. So… I’m against it in the big picture, but I certainly understand why the PR folks at Oxford feel the need to do this.”
  • “Oh boy, you just KNOW someone is going to name their kid now that it’s a word. I feel and about this!”
  • “I’m not going to legitimize their choice by using emojis in my response, but this seems like a super lazy way for a dying organization to try to pander to the youth it needs to survive. I hate it and say nay.”


And in the opposing corner…

Emoji Enthusiasts: All For It


  • “I’m very surprised by it, but I think it speaks to their being very receptive to trends in written communication. There is a whole debate about the intersection of words and pictures. This is a form of it that many of us find too simple; still, it would not be rising in use if people didn’t find it meaningful.”
  • “Personally, I kind of like them in moderation. I like to add them to the end of whatever I’m talking about (because they are cute). But, I do not prefer they be used in place of actual conversation. Someone sent me one the other day by itself. It was weird and a little impersonal.”

…And Those Who Are Just Confused.


  • “Can someone tell me what an Emoji is?”

A1: “You can look it up in the OED! ;)”

A2: “They are those little picture things people send. Like the smiley face and such.”

A3: “I used to call them emoticons but apparently that’s not the right word anymore.”

Follow us on Twitter for #cagematch debates. We’re ready to duke it out some more in 2016.


Kali Bizzul

I write and market (yes, verb) at Verblio. Whether that's a blog post, email subject line, social media update, or a lousy author bio like this one, if you've been around Verblio you've likely seen some letters I threw together. I love helping get the word out about Verblio to get all sorts of folks good content to market themselves. Apart from Verblio, I'm really passionate about puns, foreign languages, Colorado at large, staying active, and leprechauns.

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