The Oxford Short List 2015

By Maeve Maddox

As I pointed out in a recent post, the Oxford “Word” of 2015 is a pictogram.

In this post, I’ll take a look at eight other words that placed in Oxford’s annual list of frequently used English words and phrases.

Of the eight, I had heard of three of them, had written about two of them, and had never heard of five of them.

sharing economy
Merriam-Webster has an entry for the phrase and defines it as “economic activity that involves individuals buying or selling usually temporary access to goods or services especially as arranged through an online company or organization” and gives 2007 as the date of its first-known use.

Wikipedia defines it as “peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services (coordinated through community-based online services).”

The phrase does not yet appear in my subscription edition of the OED.

It seems to mean “online bartering.”

they
The appearance of this ancient word on the 2015 list is in the context of its growing use to refer to a person of unspecified gender. See Gendered Pronouns for a discussion of this usage.

on fleek
I couldn’t even guess at what this one could mean. According to the Oxford site’s explanation, this phrase originated with the user of a social media called Vine. She uploaded a video in which she displayed her eyebrows and described them as “on fleek.” The phrase is now taken to mean “extremely good, attractive, or stylish.”

ad blocker
This is a type of software that prevents ads from popping up on a web page. I had heard of this one.

refugee
This has been an English word since the seventeenth century. The renewed interest derives from the frequency that refugee and migrant have appeared in the news this year. I recently wrote about the words in Migrants vs Refugees.

Brexit
This creation—a combination of Br(itish)+exit— is a term for “potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.”

Dark Web
I’d heard of the Deep Web, but not the Dark Web. The Deep Web refers to parts of the Internet that can’t be accessed in the usual way with browsers and search engines. The Dark Web “refers specifically to websites which use encryption tools to hide the identities of hosts and users of a site, often in order to facilitate illegal activities.”

lumbersexual
I guessed this one to mean the type of man who imagines that beard stubble looks attractive. I was close. It merges lumberjack with metrosexual and refers to urban males who sport checked shirts and facial hair. Mind you, I like beards; it’s the not-quite-shaven-but-not-really-a-beard look that gives me the fantods.

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14 Responses to “The Oxford Short List 2015”

  • Foo

    “Brexil”

    You meant Brexit,right ?

  • Kevin

    Britain is looking at a Brexit, not a Brexil.

  • James

    Sharing Economy: Not quite online bartering. It’s where multiple people share usage rights to a single thing. Where I live it’s most commonly seen with cars. Users sign up for a membership to Car2Go or one of its rivals, and for a small per-mile fee they can pick up and use any Car2Go they might find around the city. Then when they’re done they park it on the street for the next person to pick it up. It works well with cars. There’s also one for power tools, if I’m not mistaken.

    Brexil: It’s actually Brexit, as in BRitish EXIT.

    Stubbly beards: You’re just wrong, Maeve. Those are hot 😂

  • Dr Divya Pal Singh

    It’s Brexit

  • Sally Bahner

    “Mind you, I like beards; it’s the not-quite-shaven-but-not-really-a-beard look that gives me the fantods.”
    Fantods! I love it! I HATE those stubbly, scruffy beards! No, James they’re not hot. They just make a guy look lazy and unkempt. Take a shower and shave already!

  • Brendan

    Yes, James, you are right.

    The relevant paragraph probably needs to be re-written because Brexil is indeed a trade name for a chemical and not at all related to “Brexit”.

    Brexit has become a commonly used shorthand on the European side of the pond. See also “Grexit” which refers to the possible departure of Greece from the European Monetary Union and its currency, the euro.

  • Maeve

    James,
    No wonder I couldn’t find it! Thanks. I’ve asked Daniel to change Brexil to Brexit.

    As for the stubble, “Everyone to his own taste,” said the woman who kissed a cow.

  • venqax

    Or kissed a porcupine. I have to say I’m in an undefined middle. I agree with the stubble-looks-unkempt and unhygienic crowd. And non-commital. Either have a beard or don’t. This unshaven look is hobo. ATST, however, I don’t like beards. Unless you’re Amish, a Hasidic Jew, a frequent Civil War reenactor, or have something to cover up (bad complexion, or the Very Weak Chin) they just detract from having a normal face. I’d have to call them an affectation– kind of like a monocle. And YET (on the third hand) I myself am usually of the unshaven stubble tribe. And it is solely because I am too lazy to shave every day. Or every other day. Or more than once or twice a week.

  • Jonas Teixeira

    In your ‘The Oxford Short List 2015’ article the second paragraph reads “In this post, I’ll take a look at eight other words that placed …” Is that construction correct, or wouldn’t the verb tense ‘were’ be missing between ‘that placed’? Thank you, Jonas Teixeira.

  • Barbara J Hughes

    Boy do I agree with you on the “lumbersexual”. I think it is the most ridiculous fad of the century. It makes the guy look like he’s too lazy to shave and it just doesn’t flatter most men. It really turns me off to even think about kissing that prickly face. YUCK!

  • Elysia

    I never date a man without stubble! Full beards are too much, but stubble is sexy. Anyone who shaves completely (1) looks too young/fussy and (2) starts to hurt my face after one hour of short, spiky stubble growth. The longer stubble is soft. And again sexy. 😉

    And, yes, “sharing economy” definitely does not mean “online bartering” – it means sharing good, from cars to high-end purses or art you can rent for a week at a time.

  • thebluebird11

    AFA beards: If you can braid it, it’s too long. Clean-shaven is fine with me, a little stubble is OK, something well-trimmed is OK. I had just better not find crumbs in it.
    On fleek…yes, I shocked my 23-year-old daughter when I not only used the term, but used it correctly LOL. Old dog, new tricks. My back is killing me LOL!

  • venqax

    What is the etymology of “on fleek”? What’s a fleek supposed to be and makes being on one a good thing? Most slang has logical if confused and misunderstood roots. Fleek is an old word, but its meaning doesn’t seem to be clear and it’s doubtful that it has a connection to Vine users, most of whom can’t even spell.

  • Lamont E. Wilkins

    Alex Russell’s “On Fleek: A Definitive History” claims that in an 1801 translation of Plutarch’s Lives “fleek” is a mistranslation [or a misspelling] of “sleek.” He cites the translated passage “fleek fellows I am afraid of, but the pale and the lean.” Then Alex Russell goes on to say, “The truth, however, is that the word ‘fleek,’ as it is used in this translation, really means ‘sleek.’”
    If Mr. Russell is correct, maybe the problem with spelling didn’t start with Vine users.

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