Just when you think you’re getting to grips with the English language, you find out that, like the Universe, it’s always getting bigger.
This week the Oxford English Dictionary - aka the vocab vigilantes - revealed their word of the year to be ‘selfie’ which had been added to its online offering in the summer, and which is defined as: “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”. Nice and properly put.
Apparently the use of the word has increased by 17,000% in the past year... now I can’t count past 22 as things stand, but I am told by Big Bro Fred that anything with three zeros on the end is not to be sniffed at. It also beat ‘twerk’ which refers to a dance move presumably only undertaken by twerps.
Now although I can’t say I’ve ever used the term ‘selfie’, I was introduced to the concept early doors, thanks to Fred’s determination to put his own stamp on a snap of us together. The photo you see before you was a secret selfie which Mum was delighted to find on her phone among the hundreds of blurry wooden floors and dog tail tips she usually has to delete on a weekly basis.
And isn’t it a treat?
Scoring on both cuteness and composition counts, as well as incorporating the surprise factor, if there was such a thing as a perfect selfie, then this effort would surely be in with a shout.
The other thing I like about it - and which distinguishes it from millions of other uploaded mirror-like moments - is the fact that there are two of us on there. So many of these so-called selfies are only about the person taking them... which I suppose is often the point. But for me this only shines a further light on our continuing spiral into self-obsession and the associated determination to document our lives in favour of living them to the full.
It’s impossible to get the most out of a moment when you’re preoccupied with getting everything in the frame, or making sure your good side is on show (obviously the latter problem is irrelevant for yours truly. They haven’t found a bad side yet).
A couple of weeks ago, as regular readers will remember (hi Fred), I recounted the sorrowful sight of a crowd of mobile phones being held aloft to film the firework display we’d all made the effort to attend in person. Last weekend a similar scene could be viewed on the streets of Durham as loads of extra lights were switched on in lots of lovely ways for Lumiere. They didn’t need thousands of screen backlights as well.
The finishing of a two-and-a-bit-year photo collage project in my bedroom (Mum started during the pre-baby bit of maternity leave and it has been gathering dust since my arrival) has served as an education in the rapidly changing culture of taking photographs.
Can you believe people used to come back from family holidays with no more than 48 snaps... which didn’t materialise until a week after touching down on home soil? I’ll bet not many of those bad boys were wasted on selfies.
Could it be true that a night out on the town didn’t always result in a newly-filled photo album or a home movie? How did anyone enjoy that?