Need another sign that marijuana is inevitably rising up from the underground to the mainstream? Well here you go: “Vape” is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2014.
“We’ve been tracking the rise of the word ‘vape’ with interest and it definitely peaked this year,” Casper Grathwohl, president of the Dictionaries Division, said in a release. “Of course it’s significant from a language point of view, given the body of new words that have grown up around it. I particularly love watching a word like ‘vape’ create linguistic knock-on effects like hearing the word ‘tobacco’ now used to qualify ‘cigarette.’
“But this year ‘vape’ also served as an insightful window onto how we define ourselves. It sat at the center of several rich cultural conversations: the debate over private versus community rights; regulation and public health; and our relationship to our visible vices. Given the booming e-cigarette market sector, expect to hear more from ‘vape’ in the years to come.”
Oxford described the designation as an overnight happening of sorts: “Over the last five years sales of electronic cigarettes have grown from almost nothing to a multi-million dollar industry, and the habit has gone mainstream,” the media release reads. “Where in the early days the use was primarily driven by smokers choosing a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, more recently the industry has gained its own momentum and new audience. A gap emerged in the lexicon, as a word was needed to describe this activity, and distinguish it from ‘smoking.’ The word vape arose to fill this gap, and it has proliferated along with the habit.”
Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said via the release: “As vaping has gone mainstream, with celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to Barry Manilow giving it a go, and with growing public debate on the public dangers and the need for regulation, so the language usage of the word ‘vape’ and related terms in 2014 has shown a marked increase.”
The way Oxford defines the word:
Inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
An electronic cigarette or similar device; an act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
One glaring omission in Oxford’s announcement is marijuana’s important role in “vape’s” rise to the mainstream. Sure, e-cigarettes are big business. But what about the vape market in legal (and illegal) weed? Sure enough, “vape” beat out “budtender” as the word of the year.
Still curious about “vape”? Read Cannabist columnist Whoopi Goldberg’s piece on vaping: Whoopi Goldberg: My vape pen and I, a love story (column).