This was the week the word of the year collided in slapstick hilarity with the picture of the year. Selfie! It’s the concept of the year. Maybe — given its accompanying connotations of technology, media, instantaneous global transmission, carelessness, solipsism, frivolity, youth, inappropriateness and ironic juxtaposition — it’s the concept of our age.
Selfie was last month proclaimed word of the year by Oxford University Press (take that, “twerking”!), whose word-use metrics showed a 17,000% jump in usage since last year. Oxford defined the word as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
Three weeks later, President Obama starred in what is now the most infamous selfie of all time, one taken by a pretty, party-faced blonde named Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who turned out to be the prime minister of a country experts have identified as “Denmark.” Flanking her in a photographer’s snapshot of her selfie were Obama and, to her right, in the Kevin James role as chubby-faced sidekick of this farce, the clueless UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the oaf who once left his 8-year-old daughter alone in a pub.
Let’s not understate the magnitude of Obama’s accomplishment. For this to become the Selfie of the Year of the Selfie took some doing. Let’s review the competition.