Unfriend becomes word of the year

My good friend and IT lifeline, James Frost, sent me this. According to The Register, the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year is “unfriend”. As in, “Me and Haley had this huge, like, fight and stuff so I totally unfriended her on Facebook.”

The actual entry is: Unfriend: verb; to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary, said, “It has both currency and potential longevity”. She also said, “But ‘unfriend’ is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used.” Which is complete bollocks. Of course the verb use of friend is used. I’ve had people say to me, “Friend me on Facebook and send me the link” or similar. If they accept unfriend as a verb, friend as a verb is a given. That’s what you get with an American dictionary, I suppose. Perhaps they’re less friendly over there and only recognise unfriending people.

According to the article, other finalists in the 2009 Word Of The Year included:

Hashtag: a # sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets.

Netbook: a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory.

Paywall: a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers.

Freemium: a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content.

Funemployed: taking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests.

Tramp Stamp: a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman.

Seriously, this dictionary is losing credibility all over the place. First they claim there’s no such verb as friend, after making unfriend the word of the year. Then they claim that “tramp stamp” was a contender for word of the year. That’s two words! How does it even qualify?

Still, at least they avoided drawing attention to the rise in use of medal and podium as verbs. That began to annoy me more and more throughout the last Olympics. Language is an organic and ever growing thing, changes are going to occur and there’s no point railing against it. But let’s at least try to keep some kind of order. At the very least, let’s not include phrases in some arbitrary “Word Of The Year” debacle.

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12 thoughts on “Unfriend becomes word of the year

  1. Ooh, really? That’s a whole different copper pot of mackerel. “Defriend” kinda sounds like “delouse”, like those friends are an infestation to be rid of. Maybe there’s a definition difference right there between unfriend and defriend…?

  2. Yeah, let’s “not included phrases” indeed! Just getting back at your typospotting.

    But in that case what would you say is the difference between a word and a phrase? Saying it’s a lack of space is a bit meaningless — so if people would have been saying trampstamp it would be counted? About 100 yrs ago, people wrote “to day” for today, but there’s a good chance they saw it as a word. I think tramp stamp isn’t obvious as it’s probably a matter of luck that it wasn’t joined when typing.

  3. Regardless, tramp stamp is two words. Two words can’t be word of the year. If the phrase evolves into trampstamp, then it might get in at some future date. 🙂

  4. I do consider a “word” to be singular, at least for the sake of this argument.

    Although the dictionary includes words, terms and phrases. You would look up an entry in the dictionary to discover whether “tramp stamp” was written as one word or two, or whether it was hyphenated, etc.

    Would it be more accurate to consider something like “tramp stamp” a term?

    Not sure that “Term of the Year” has the same ring to it as “Word of the Year” … and “Dictionary Entry of the Year” is a bit long.

  5. All good points. But that’s sort of reverse engineering it. If it’s called Word Of The Year I think it needs to be a single word.

  6. Seems to me a lazy definition of “unfriendly”. Sigh. I think this change, the movement away from proper English started its downfall with sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Or I could be wrong and it was already devolving. Then add in texting to the mix, with the need to say as many words with as few characters as possible and you get words like unfriend. Unfortunately, it also decimates word usage and doesn’t allow for an over large vocabulary.

    Personally I think the word is devoid of anything meaningful. It comes across as cold and as I said a lazy form of English.

    And tramp stamp is definitely two words. Of all the language available they seriously couldn’t consider anything more profound. Ugh!

    At this rate they’re going to have us writing boring drivel that puts us to sleep before it even makes the page. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. Indigo – language evolves all the time. There didn’t used to be a need for the word internet, for example. It’s a valid word for what it describes. Word of the year, though? I’m not so sure about that!

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