Not up in smoke: E-cigarettes’ rise means ‘vape’ is word of the year

Not so long ago, someone who said they were off to vape with their bae while discussing the indyref would have been accused of talking gobbledegook.

But research by lexicographers into the most recent words to enter general parlance suggests this is a perfectly reasonable sentence in 2014.

Oxford Dictionaries has announced vape as its international word of the year, reflecting the rise in popularity — and scrutiny — of electronic cigarettes.

Bae, which is used as a term of endearment for a romantic partner and is popular on social media and hip-hop and R&B music, was shortlisted for the title, along with indyref — used to describe the poll on Scottish independence.

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “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.”

When used as a verb, vape means inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by e-cigarettes, while it can also be used as a noun to refer to the devices themselves.

Language research found that the use of the word vape has more than doubled this year compared to 2013.

Associated phrases have also developed, including vape pen and vape shop, while the “retronym” phrase tobacco cigarette has even begun to resurface in order to draw a distinction between traditional cigarettes and electronic devices.

The word of the year does not need to have been coined in the last year but must have become prominent or notable during that time.

Vape was added to the website OxfordDictionaries.com in August 2014 and is being considered for inclusion in future editions of the official Oxford English Dictionary.

In fact, the word vape dates back to the 1980s. Its earliest known use is in an article titled ‘Why Do People Smoke?’ in New Society in 1983 in which the author, Rob Stepney, used the word to describe a hypothetical device being explored at the time.

He wrote presciently of “an inhaler or non-combustible cigarette, looking much like the real thing, but... delivering a metered dose of nicotine vapour. (The new habit, if it catches on, would be known as vaping)”.

Bae originated in African-American English and has been propelled into global usage through social media and lyrics in hip-hop and R&B music.

It is thought that it most likely originated as a shortened form of baby or babe, but is sometimes interpreted as an acronym for “before anyone else”. ‘Come Get It Bae’ is the name of a song by Pharrell Williams featuring Miley Cyrus.

Referring to indyref, researchers said it was “inevitable that vocabulary around the subject of the Scottish independence referendum would make its mark on the lexicon”.

Lexicon arrivals

Budtender (noun): A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop. It combines bud — slang for marijuana — and tender — as in bartender.

Normcore (noun): A trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.

Contactless (adj): Relating to or involving technologies that allow a smart card or mobile phone to contact wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.

Slacktivism (noun): Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, for example signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website. Oxford Dictionaries cited the ice bucket challenge and the no makeup selfie as examples.


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