25 Nov 2009
Want to know what this year’s best word is? Tweep? Obamamania? Jedward? Nah. It’s ‘unfriend’. Blimey. How brutal.
Last week, The New Oxford American Dictionary chose ‘unfriend’ – a verb meaning to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site like Facebook – as its word of the year. And what linguistic luminaries did it beat? How about ‘sexting’, ‘deleb’, and ‘funemployed’.
So how has ‘unfriend’ made it into the dictionary? Each year, researchers at The Oxford Dictionary track changes in the English language, and choose their word of the year “to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use.” Ok-ay. According to Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary programme, ‘unfriend’ has “both currency and potential longevity”. Well I guess all the time we have friends there will be opportunities to ‘unfriend’ them.
What other words were on the hot list? The economy, politics and current affairs all featured heavily. As did technology, which is a constant source of new words and phrases.
‘Sexting’, sending sexually explicit text messages made it on to the list. Nice. As did ‘intexticated’, driving under the influence of texting. Possibly while ‘sexting’?
‘Funemployed’, people taking advantage of their unemployed status to have fun or a career break was there. As was ‘zombie bank’, a financial institution still operating even though its liabilities are greater than its assets. Oh dear.
Novelty words which made the shortlist were ‘deleb’, meaning a dead celebrity. And ‘tramp stamp’, referring to a tattoo on a woman’s lower back. Classy.
So back to ‘unfriend’. There seems to be some discussion on the blogosphere that the term is actually ‘defriend’. Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin said that, both internally and on the site, Facebook uses several terms for the act of removing a friend. She added that the site managers are now considering making ‘unfriend’ the official term.
“Overall, we’re thrilled that the idea of people connecting, or even unconnecting, with each other on sites like Facebook has officially become part of the lexicon,” she said.
Hmmmm. ‘Unconnecting’? Surely, a contestant for 2010.