Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

Selfie: a brilliant bloody accident at a drunken party in Australia

A FIGHT has broken out in the linguistic world over the origins of the word selfie.

The battle escalated this week when the Oxford Dictionary named selfie - a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website - its Word of the Year.

The frequency of the usage of selfie increased by 17,000% over the past 12 months making it one of the most valuable and coveted examples of start-up language in recent years.

Two parties are vying for ownership rights. 

Most commentators believe it’s the property of Professor of Semantics at Boston University, Sean Wordsworth who says he invented the term in an academic paper that examined the narcissistic behaviour associated with new technology.

He told the New York Times that he added the ie to the word self to form selfie. He said ie is the abbreviation of the Latin id est which means that is.

‘The id is a clear link between the ego and super ego in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche and best describes the narcissistic tendencies associated with certain behaviour with modern technologies that duplicate and immortalise their users’, Professor Wordsworth said.

His claim to selfie rights has been disputed by a 32 year-old Australian man Steven Wrighter or better known to his friends as Stevie the surfie and brickie from Coogee in Sydney.

He told the local newspaper The Coogee Truth:

‘I was watching the footy on the telly at a barbie with my mate Brucie and his girl friend Lizzie when I saw this academic bloke reckon he discovered selfie. Not true mate. It’s bullsh*t. I can prove it. I’m not a smarty like that Yankee, but I wrote selfie in a text and posted it with a piccie of me in 2002. Mind you, I was a bit drunk and bit bloodied.’

Forensic linguists are studying the post (see below) which would be the first official sighting of the 2013 Word of the Year.

Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.

Vocabulary: slang = argot

Stevie – short form for the name Steven

surfie – (Australian slang) a surfer

brickie - (Australian slang) a bricklayer

Brucie – (Australian slang) for the name Bruce

Lizzie – abbreviation of name Elizabeth

Coogee – a beach suburb of Sydney taken from the Aboriginal word koojah which means stinking seaweed

footy – (Australian slang) Australian Rules football

telly – (Australian slang) television

barbie – (Australian slang) barbecue

smarty – (Australian slang) intelligent person

Yankee – (Australian slang) an American

piccie (pronounced picky) - (Australian slang) a photograph

 SPOILER: It’s official. The word selfie was first used by an Australian who was drunk at a party and fell over and cut open his lip and then took a photo of his bloody face. The above text is believed to be the origin of the word ‘selfie’. We do not know the identity of the person who posted it. Professor Wordsworth is a fictional character.







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