English has made its choices for the most important word of the year for 2019: “they” by Merriam-Webster, “existential” by Dictionary.com, and “climate emergency” by Oxford. These words, according to an opinion piece at CNN, show that “it’s Generation Z’s world now.” (As a Boomer, I resent that a little. I’m more than willing to keep up with a changing world, although I admit that some of my age cohorts are petrified and proud of it.)
In Spain, the Fundéu BBVA, which tracks and recommends word usage in the media, has chosen its word for 2019: “emoji.” (As a Spanish-speaker and translator, I need to keep track of new and trending words in Castilian, and I’m eager to see their choice each year.)
Why “emoji”? Because it — and emoticons in all their variety — “now form part of our daily communications and keep moving into territory beyond private conversations in chats and messages, where they started. Their undeniable impact on our daily life, their interesting relationships with other elements of communication (such as words, phrases, and punctuation signs) and the perspective they open to the future, have given the Fundéu reason to award emoticons and emojis the distinction of word of the year.”
They won’t replace words, the Fundéu says, but “in a world marked by speed, emoticons provide agility and concision. And in an environment where a good part of what we write, especially in chats and messages, is oral communication put into words, these elements allow us to add nuanced intention and gestures that would otherwise be lost.”
The Fundéu’s runner-up candidates for the word on the 2019 year in Spanish are:
Electromovilidad: Electromobility or e-mobility, the use of electric rather than gasoline motors for transportation.
Desglobalización: Deglobalization, the reverse of the process of globalization.
Neonegacionismo: Neo-negationism, such as the denial of climate change or other generally accepted historic or scientific concepts.
Exhumación: Exhumation, specifically the exhumation of the remains of the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen monument in October.
DANA: Depresión aislada en niveles altos or “high-level isolated depression,” a weather phenomenon in Spain that brings big storms, often with flash floods.
Huachicolero: A Mexican word for criminals who steal gasoline from pipelines.
Seriéfilo: A new word referring to people who love television and movie series.
Influente: Influencer, someone who knows how to use social media to make their opinions influence other people.
Albañila: The female form of “bricklayer.” Women are moving into professions previously reserved to men.
Cúbit: Qubit. In quantum computing, a qubit or quantum bit is the basic unit of quantum information.
Superdesempate: Super tie-break, a term used in tennis.
Meanwhile, the Real Academia Española has chosen its fourteen words that best define 2019: progreso (progress), deporte (sports), feminizar (feminize), constitución (constitution), confianza (confidence — in political institutions), acogida (welcome — for immigrants and refugees), estado del bienestar (welfare state), elecciones (elections), inteligencia artificial (artificial intelligence), escuela (schools — education’s successes and failures), clima (climate), euroescéptico (Euroskeptic), autodeterminación (self-determination — in Catalonia), and triunfo (triumph — in a variety of fields). More about why, in Spanish, is reported by El Pais newspaper.
The Fundéu’s previous words of the year were escrache (a kind of protest) en el 2013, selfi in 2014, refugiado (refugee) in 2015, populismo (populism) in 2016, aporofobia (fear of poor people) in 2017, and microplástico (microplastics) en 2018.