Nothing More Than Words

We read that the Oxford dictionary of the English language chose “selfie” —a self-portrait published on social networks— as word of the year. This choice says a lot about the popularity of these networks, but much more about our egocentrism.

The selfie is already so universal that even the pope has used it. It has no direct translation into Spanish, but the Real Academia Española (RAE) will probably add it to its dictionary soon.

We don’t know who chooses the word of the year in Spanish, but we have some suggestions. There is “reform,” published excessively this year by the media —including this paper— to refer to two failed attempts: comprehensive immigration reform, stuck in Congress, and health care reform, whose messy launch will have serious consequences for he who named it “Obamacare.”

Another word we saw in the news is the Anglicism “bullying” , which refers to the ongoing harassment of children and teens —now with a digital component, cyber bullying. For example, the case of a biracial football player for the Miami Dolphins, who claimed he was bullied by a white teammate, showed that in this society bullying is not limited to kids.

Speaking of sports, a word we saw a lot is repechaje (wild card). According to RAE, it originated in El Salvador and is used in soccer to designate a “last chance given to a team so it remains in the competition.” We won’t explain this one to Mexico’s fans.

News in recent weeks led us to use the term “typhoon” to refer to a cyclone originating in the Sea of China; here, we call that a “hurricane,” another Americanism, inherited from Caribbean Tainos.

There are, as they say, words that kill, others that console, illustrate and say it all. One that is not used as much as we would like is particularly useful on a day like today: Thanks.