The foundation, staffed by linguists and journalists, exists to answer Spanish usage questions for terms in the news. For example, if you’re writing about an airplane that disappeared near Indonesia, did it crash into the “mar de Java” or “Mar de Java” (Java Sea)? It should be lower case, “mar de Java,” the same as you would write “océano Pacífico,” since the geographic designation is a common generic. Thanks for asking.
For the Word of the Year, the foundation looks for words in the news with some linguistic interest. In this case, there’s the adaptation from “selfie” into “selfi,” in accordance with Spanish spelling rules. The proper plural is “selfis.” But is it “el selfi” or “la selfi”? We urgently need to know. Here’s the official answer:
“...it can be considered an ambiguous word regarding its gender, el/la selfie, like el/la mar, el/la armazón and many other words.” Mar (sea) and armazón (frame, such as a glasses frame or tent frame) are intersex words. I bet you didn’t know Spanish had them.
Tthe foundation adds that you can also use “autoretrato” or “autofoto” if you don’t like “selfi.” It assures us that Spanish includes terms for the same thing borrowed from other languages as well as terms created with its own linguistic resources, like “fútbol” versus “balompié” (football).
“Selfie” was the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. This year, for Oxford, it’s “vape.” The Fundación de Español Urgente recomends using “vaporear” instead of “vapear” as the Spanish equivalent, since it comes from the word “vapor,” but I’m afraid the foundation is fighting a losing battle there.
“Selfi,” however, is probably going to stick.
— Sue Burke