Proving that social networking is a huge cultural force, the New Oxford American Dictionary has chosen 'unfriend' as its 2009 Word of the Year (WOTY). To unfriend means to remove someone from your friend list on a social network like Facebook or MySpace. The new word is an excellent choice as the 2009 WOTY because of its "currency and potential longevity," according to Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford's US dictionary program.
Many lexicographers nominate their own WOTY every year. Words are usually chosen based on their popularity in everyday usage and cultural importance over the previous twelve months. Oxford's dubious honor puts unfriend in the same ranks as previous WOTY honorees like hypermiling, locavore and the Al Gore-inspired carbon neutral.
Unfriend was chosen from a total of twenty-four contenders for 2009. Other technology-related words in the running for Word of the Year included:
hashtag: a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets
intexticated: distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle
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
sexting: the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone
Words were also considered from the lexicons of economics (freemium), politics and current affairs (teabagger), environment (brown state) as well as novelty words like 'deleb' and 'tramp stamp.'
'Un-' Not Just for Adjectives Anymore
Besides being a popular phrase--not to mention close rival to 'defriend'--the 2009 WOTY employs an unconventional use of the 'un-' prefix. Unfriend is different, because most 'un-' prefix words are typically adjectives, while unfriend takes on a verb form, according to Lindberg. There are examples of other 'un-' verbs, such as unpack and uncap, but unfriend takes it one step further by employing an abnormal "verb sense" of the word 'friend.'
Unfriend, according to Lindberg, has "real lex-appeal." [Insert eye roll here].
If you're an avid unfriender, don't forget that soon you'll be able to drop friends using your PlayStation 3. Sony announced on Monday, that Facebook integration would be coming with firmware version 3.10, the soon-to-be-released update for the PS3.
So what do you say? Is unfriend truly the word that shaped 2009 or should that honor belong to teabagger?