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Word of the Year: ‘Selfie’

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‘Selfie’ Taken at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Story by CNN’s Ben Brumfield, photo from FOX 17’s Steve VanBergen

(CNN) — The most esteemed guardian of the English language has bestowed a prestigious honor upon debatably the most embarrassing phenomenon of the digital age: the selfie.

So, grab a smartphone, put on your best duck face and celebrate. Selfie is the global Word of the Year 2013, according to Oxford Dictionaries.

And when you share that filtered photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ll join millions of others around the world perpetuating a tradition started over a decade ago, Oxford says.

The word first popped up in an Australian chat room on September 13, 2002, to describe an undignified scene, the dictionaries’ publishers believe.

This was the post: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer 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.”

Yes, the first-ever known mention of the word “selfie” stemmed from an inebriated mouth with teeth protruding through its bottom lip.

davis selfie

FOX 17’s Mike Davis takes an in-studio ‘selfie’

Given those circumstances, Oxford may not much care how you spell it.

You could go with “ie” or “y,” as in “selfy.”

Oxford says that doesn’t change the official definition:

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Complete unknown

For years after its birth, “selfie” crept through the web largely unnoticed.

But in 2012, it began its ascent to digital fame, Oxford says.

Suddenly, everybody around the world was using the word, as they self-snapped away.

By August this year, Oxford proclaimed it a real English-language word and gave it a place in the dictionary — but that was merely a stepping stone to lingual infamy.

“Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year,” Oxford wrote in justifying its choice.

“Selfie” beat out seven competitors, including “twerk,” “schmeat” (synthetically produced meat) and “bitcoin” for the Word of the Year crown.

“Selfie” is not slouching on its thrown, Oxford says. It has already been very productive, pumping out offspring.

It has given birth to “helfie” — a photo of one’s own hair; “belfie” — a snapshot of one’s own backside; and “welfie” — a selfie taken while working out, aka the most annoying kind.

There’s also the “drelfie” — a photo of yourself when you’re drunk.

Fitting, since a drelfie in Australia was the first “selfie” that ever bore the name.

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