Why? Because the word has been in the headlines and because it has required a careful differentiation from immigrant. Immigrants want to live in another country, while refugees are driven by war, revolution, or political persecution to seek refuge in another country.
“For that reason,” says Joaquín Muller, general director of Fundéu BBVA, “we believe that refugee fulfills the conditions we seek for the word of the year: it’s been in the news and conversations in 2015, and it also holds some interest from a linguistic point of view and is a term common to the entire Spanish-speaking world, not just one country or region. Whether it’s a new term or not isn’t relevant to our decision.”
Fundéu BBVA is a foundation dedicated to helping the news media and public use Spanish properly.
Europe alone has received a million refugees this year, and 3,735 are known to have died attempting to arrive there by sea. Refugees also exist in many other parts of the world and head toward other countries, including the United States, where their acceptance has become an ugly political battle. This word will be important for years to come.
Compare that to the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015: emoji, in particular the little face with tears of joy, the most commonly used emoji of 2015. It might be especially appropriate for refugees who finally find safe haven.
Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015 is binge-watch, a first-world problem, perhaps – and a new word to be entered into the online dictionary, which is part of Collins’ criteria. Other new words for Collins are manspreading, dadbod, transgender, contactless, and clean-eating.
Fundéu BBVA also considered for 2015 such words as despatarre (manspreading), clictivismo (clicktivism), poliamor (polyamory), chikunguña (a tropical disease), trolear (to troll), and inequidad (inequality). In the end, the grimmest expression of today’s reality took the prize.
The Fundéu BBVA’s word of the year for 2014 was selfi (selfie), and for 2013 escrache, a kind of protest.
-- Sue Burke