Somber was chairing the meeting that year, so the sentiment in the room was laden with an air of seriousness. In his typical fashion, Somber was dressed in his black suit to mark the occasion, with his trademark grim expression etched into his face. That evening, all the words in the dictionary were sitting around in a conference room that looked more like Wembley Stadium than any other meeting room that you’ve seen. The size of the room had grown exponentially over the years, of course, just so it could contain all 94,312 words in the Oxford dictionary. The 47,156 old-fashioned words sat at the back of the room, speaking in a tongue that the rest of the words barely understood. If you strained your ears, you could hear Thusly saying to Bedchamber, “These blithering fools have turned these annual affairs into a gallimaufry of tuneless he-says she-says. It’s complete bunkum!” The words were gathered together for their annual conference to determine which newfangled word would earn the right to be included in the English dictionary that year. Young Selfie was waiting outside the room. Ear pressed tightly against the thick wooden doors, waiting to hear her fate. “My existence will not go to waste,” she whispered to herself, as if in silent prayer. The words were all talking among themselves. Somber cleared his throat to get their attention. After the 25th attempt, he shook his head and went over to Loudspeaker. “You do the honours, then,” he said with a sigh. Loudspeaker, true to form as he usually was, emitted a loud screeching sound that earned a gasp from the audience (and a few shrill shrieks from the trio of Giggly, Impressionable, and Wussy). Somber droned loudly in his signature deadpan voice. “Welcome to the 14,257th congregation of the English language. It’s my honour today to chair this meeting. As you all know, the chairman is chosen in alphabetical order, so sit tight for your turn if you haven’t had the chance to chair.” Sarcastic whispered loudly, “I can’t wait for Sombrero to chair the meeting next year. At least then, you’ll know there’ll be at least a margarita or two!” Somber eyed him pointedly and continued, “Let this year’s debate begin!” The word “Selfie” now flashed on the screen behind him, along with its official definition: “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, and usually shared via social media.” Immediately, all the words in the room started talking. Especially loud were Animated and Excitable. The more junior words stayed silent – Beatboxer, Humblebrag, and even Douchebag knew their place in the pecking order. “Excuse me,” said Etiquette, “You all know you must step in front of the mic in order to speak. Can we have at least the tiniest semblance of order here?” He peered out through his monocle, dressed in a smartly tailored suit and a handkerchief pristinely peeking out of his breast pocket. Ignoramus, one of the oldest words in the room, slowly wandered to the mic. His bones could be heard creaking from a mile away. “Isn’t a selfie the same as a photo? It’s just a picture of oneself, isn’t it?” he mused, sounding both seasoned and confused at the same time. Photo piped up quickly, “Oh please don't drag me into this! I’m nothing like the narcissistic selfie!” Narcissistic rolled his eyes. Newspaper took the chance to pipe up. “Well, honestly, this whole debacle is all Internet’s fault.” Newspaper has in recent years been aiming his derision at Internet. Most of the time, the other words treated his rambling complaints as if they were the sounds of the passing wind. He turned to glare at Internet, who, as usual, was hanging out beside the alcoholic punchbowl with the cool kids of the group – Smartphone and Webchat. “It’s because of your frequent dalliance with Smartphone, that Selfie was born anyway!” huffed Newspaper. Somber sighed and raised his arms up in a placating fashion. “Why don’t we hear from Logic, he always makes the most sense.” Logic, arguably the most wisened (but also most often ignored) one in the room, sank back into his chair and looked deep in thought. After several beats, he walked slowly to the mic. Everything about the way he carried himself reflected his rational nature, down to his sensible ergonomic boots. He pensively looked at the crowd of words gathered there. “As the guardians of the English language, we need to uphold a certain standard. Not every word that has been uttered should be included in the revered dictionary. Think about it. The dictionary is not just a cache of our language, but is a reflection of culture throughout the years.” Sensing objections from the likes of Contrary and However, Logic quickly added, “The frequency of the word ‘selfie’ had increased by 17,000% in the last year alone. If that’s not an indicator that it has already entered mainstream language, I don't know what is.” Every word in the room stayed silent, deep in thought. As usual, Logic made sense. And while everyone hated it when Logic tried to make a point, they knew his advice was usually right. Somber let the moment land a little longer before announcing that it was time to take it to a vote. Meticulous was left in charge of counting up the votes, and after two rounds of confirmation counts, she announced cheerily that Selfie had been accepted into the English dictionary. “All in favour?” said Somber. There was a chorus of “Ayes.” “Then I declare this meeting adjourned.” It was that moment that Selfie burst into the room, crying tears of happiness. She spotted her friends, Douchebag, Hashtag, and Insecurity, and ran to them with open arms. As everyone started to get up to leave the room, only Humbug could be heard muttering from the back rows, “So it seems like Selfie is in the dictionary, but oh, still no love for good ol’ Chumbumble? It's a travesty, a travesty I tell you!”
The Room of Words
By Stephanie Gwee
A thousand words inspired
by Getty Images #142915400
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Credit: Yagi Studio
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