The Word of the Year parade makes a stop at the New Oxford American Dictionary, which named unfriend (as in “If you don’t stop writing annoying comments on my Facebook wall, I will unfriend you”) as its top pick for 2009.
According to senior lexicographer Christine Lindberg:
It has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most “un-” prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar “un-” verbs (uncap, unpack), but “unfriend” is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of “friend” that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!).
Here’s my question though: As a Facebook user, I rarely unfriend (or defriend) people, but I friend others and am friended all the time (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little bit). Given the criteria that’s been outlined, isn’t there a much more compelling case for friend as the word of the year?
Oddly enough, many of the words that didn’t have the same “lex-appeal” bear a remarkable resemblance to MRP’s Top Ten Words I’d Vote Off the Island in a Heartbeat:
intexticated – distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle
sexting – the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone
birther – a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate
death panel – a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed
And possibly my favorite, because it’s the most ridiculous and I love the idea of a bunch of lexicographers sitting around discussing it in all seriousness:
tramp stamp – a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman
See the rest of the nominees here.