On the Dull Side of the Cutting Edge

Dec 20, 2013 | 2 comments


Obama’s Selfie in the News

Until President Obama made the news by taking a portrait of himself with several other dignitaries at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, I had never heard the term “selfie.”  Suddenly, I’m hearing it everywhere. Selfie has even been chosen Word of the Year for 2013 by UC Berkeley professor and linguist Geoffrey Nunberg who does a regular language feature on NPR’s Fresh Air.

I’m sure my readers are way ahead of me, but just in case… The Oxford English Dictionary defines a selfie as (n.) a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.  The word has been around since 2002 but, also according to the OED, its usage has gone up a staggering 17,000 percent in 2013!

In an article about his word choice for the year, Nunberg said that the media really had it all wrong about Obama’s picture.  Taking a picture of yourself and others with your cell phone or digital camera isn’t really a selfie unless it’s taken with the intent of displaying it on a social media site.


Sydney’s Profile Picture

“Aha!” I said to myself when I read that.  I’m almost on the cutting edge!  Sometime last summer I took a picture of myself in my yellow rain hat – a chapeau that I’ve worn for at least a dozen years and that people have come to associate with me.  (Remember “the man in the yellow hat” from the Curious George Books?   Well, around the Peninsula I’ve heard myself referred to as “the woman in the yellow hat.”)

I took my selfie with the express intent of using it as a profile picture on Facebook.  And, since I wanted to reinforce my association with Oysterville, I took purposely positioned myself with our historic church in the background.  It was the first time I’d done such a thing and I was amazed at how easy it was to re-do the picture until I was satisfied.  In the past, with my ever-patient husband as photographer, I always felt guilty for taking up his time and by the third or fourth attempt usually settled for something I didn’t quite like.

Of course, during that selfie photographing session, I had no idea that I was on some sort of cutting edge.  I hadn’t heard the word (and wouldn’t for some months) and felt vaguely narcissistic about standing in our south garden photographing myself over and over.  And now that I can put that Word of the Year to my actions, I wonder if I am starting to qualify as one of the “Me Generation.”  Lordy!  Lordy!  I hope not!


  1. Nancy

    Sydney: Your self is sharp! Talk about my steel trap mind….Your cutting edge standing next to my mind…what a pair of old friends we make…

  2. Carolline Miller

    You’re a trend setter, doing a thing before it has a name. Congrats. I do very much like the picture, by the way.


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