The word—which can be used as both a noun and a verb—references an electronic cigarette, which has grown to a multi-million dollar industry within the last several years. Oxford Dictionaries’ research found that use of the word has more than doubled since 2013.
“Its linguistic productivity is evident in the development of a vaping lexicon,” reads an Oxford Dictionaries’ blog post. The post goes on to explain:
Vape pen and vape shop appear most frequently, with related coinages including e-juice (the liquid that is converted to vapour in the process of vaping an e-cigarette), carto (short for cartomizer, a disposable cartridge in which e-juice is converted into vapour), vaporium (a place where e-cigarettes may be vaped or in which vaping equipment can be purchased), and even the retronym tobacco cigarette which serves to distinguish traditional cigarettes from the electronic devices.
“E-cigarettes have only been around since 2003, but “vape” has been used since the early 1980s, notably in New Society’s 1983 article, “Why do People Smoke,” which described a futuristic device similar to the real, modern version used today.”
“Vape” beat out competing words such as “budtender” (the person dispensing cannabis at a shop), “indyref” (the Scottish independence referendum), “slacktivism” (actions performed online to support political or social causes that involve little effort), and “normcore” (the trend that involves wearing unfashionable clothing intentionally).
Also included in the list was “bae” (shortened form of “baby” or “babe”), which also made Time’s worst words poll. The magazine received a backlash after suggesting “feminist” should be a banned word in 2015. (It was the runaway leader.) Editors apologized several days later:
TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word “feminist” should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.
Boston.com’s Roberto Scalese said Time’s inclusion of “feminist” in the banishment poll was akin to book burning, which means the poll and 2014’s word of the year have something in common: They both went up in smoke.
Beki Winchel is the PR Daily co-editor.
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