Scorekeeping in Lexicography

Lexicography is a high-stakes business; we lexicographers are famous for being a jealous and territorial bunch, as you already know if you follow the news of all the drive-by shootings. If you have to name the east coast vs. west coast rappers of lexicography, I think you’d have to go with the Oxford English Dictionary vs. Urban Dictionary. In this bitter rivalry, fresh shots have been fired. And World Lexicography Headquarters, always above it all, is here to keep score for you.

The OED has been making quite a production over their choice of “selfie” as the Word of the Year for 2013, and summoning as much attention as they can conjure for it. The whole spectacle has a bit of an “aren’t we cute and trendy” vibe about it that makes me roll my eyes, because they aren’t. For this lack of dignity they must pay, so I am here to point out that Urban Dictionary (which has never pretended to dignity) has had “selfie” in their lexicon since July 29, 2009, and their editors named it their Word of the Day on October 12, 2012, scooping the Oxford people by more than a year, or by four years, depending on how you score it.

So even though Urban Dictionary lacks the reputation, the promotional resources, and (let’s face it) the brains of the Oxford crowd, WLHQ has to award this round to their guerrilla lexicographers.

(Here is someone making similar comparisons.)

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