Oxford Dictionaries awarded the word “vape” the illustrious title of Word of the Year, a distinction that every English speaker on the planet is guaranteed to immediately forget. But hold up, because we’re almost a million percent sure this word will stick around unlike winners of yore chosen by institutions like the American Dialect Society (ADS), see: bushlips (1990), information superhighway (1993), and past nominees like sea kittens (2009), moofing (2008).
The fact that “vape” won word of the year indicates that maybe Oxford Dictionaries is getting better at this whole gauging the national mood thing. The institution, a newcomer to this game (ADS has been at it for more than 20 years) managed, we believe, to make the right choice this year. Past mistakes include locavore (2007), and refudiate (a word invented by Sarah Palin back in 2010), neither of which had high potential for staying power from the beginning. Vape, unlike nominees normcore or slacktivism, has serious staying power, and invokes much more than just the act of sucking on some silly looking baubled vaporizer.
Like normcore, it’s an aesthetic, but it’s also a budding cultural institution, a source for scientific inquiry, concern, debate, and actual laws that need to be or have already been written. So unlike the aforementioned trend words, it’s actually necessary that it be recognized as a “real” term. Not that we needed Oxford Dictionaries to distinguish for us between real words and unreal words anyway, but “vape,” “vaporizer,” and “vaping” have concrete connotations. Normcore, for example, is a little more fluid. Vaping, however, doesn’t leave much room for misinterpretation.
“Vape” is also an interesting choice, because like many of its predecessors, it’s a contentious topic. But in this case, the word itself subs in as a less awkward way to discuss something that’s still an unfamiliar practice for many. Instead of making a topic more esoteric (see ADS 2000 winner, “chad” a reference to the piles of punched out holes from poorly designed Florida ballots). The New York City Council, opting to use the phrase “use of electronic cigarette devices” instead of “vape” when they amended the cigarette smoking ban, chose clumsy sounding legalese. But they also demonstrated the necessity for a more succinct and more efficient means of labeling the act of puffing on a personal vaporizer. Something for the people, if you will.
Oxford chose the word based on data that use of the word has more than doubled from 2013 to 2014 and its high potential for “linguistic productivity,” or the many different ways “vape” can be used: noun, verb, adverb, etc. Their choice shows not just their foresight as an institution of language, but their commitment to recognizing words created by the people, for the people. Cheers to Oxford and the pioneers of vaping, may your efforts as Guinea Pigs not be in vain.
To congratulate the word “vape” on its victory, we took look around town and picked some Brooklynites who are extending “vape” to the far reaches of its linguistically productivity. There truly is a vape scene for everyone.
The fine people at MoVapes Brooklyn, vaporizer shop and “e-cig lounge” in Crown Heights, “believe that vaping is a lifestyle choice.” They also promise “no judgement,” “no attitude,” and guarantee to spread “just the love of vape.” The store claims they “curate” only the best products. MoVapes’s aesthetic isn’t far off from this whole rebranding of marijuana as a sophisticated substance for connoisseurs, but they’ll be damned if they shed their laid back stoner/skateboarder sensibility. In reaction to the “vape” victory heard ’round the world, the shop owners declared on their Facebook page today “this is Awesome!!!!” That’s at least two more exclamation points than they usually append to their updates.
Brooklyn Vaper, a Williamsburg-based shop and lounge, makes clear the homonym potential of vapors/vapers, the latter of course being the vape enthusiast. These guys are a little more sophisticated than the rest, a little less stoner, and a lot more Williamsburg. Their liquid stock include artisanal house-made vape juice, AND the shop lives in one of a newish glass mini-mall on the waterfront. Take a good long look people, because this is the future of Williamsburg.
Beyond Vapors prefers the older school “vapors” to “vapes,” perhaps nodding toward an idyllic past as well as hurdling toward a dystopian future. Consider their penchant for reclaimed wood floors and incandescent bulbs, and um that monstrosity you see above. We don’t know about you guys, but we’re picking up on some serious Steampunk vibes.