Top Word of 2009: Unfriend, But Twitterisms Abound

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Social networking terms abound as the Oxford New American Dictionary announced its 2009 "Word of the Year": Unfriend, as in removing someone from a Facebook friends list. Runner-up? Hashtag.

"Unfriend has real lex appeal," said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's US dictionary program. In a blog post announcing the selection, Lindberg also said the word "has both currency and potential longevity."

Unlike other "un" words, generally adjectives and some verbs, "unfriend" uses the verb tense of friend, "that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!)," Lindberg wrote.

Is it a comment on the times that our "word of the year" is about rejecting people we once embraced? Or at least momentarily added to our friend list before realizing they were stupid, opinionated, boors?

Here is the specific definition, in case mine was a tad general

unfriend - verb - To remove someone as a ‘friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook.

"As in, 'I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.'"

Note that the dictionary did not define unfriend as something done in order to get a free hamburger, a Burger King promotion that briefly ran on Facebook back in January. The chain offered a free Whopper to anyone who would unfriend or "sacrifice" 10 people in order to get the burger.

The "Whopper Sacrifice" promotion, which seemed quite perverse to me, was pulled by Facebook after complaints from users. It did, however, result in 233,906 friends being sacrificed by about 60,000 participants.

Dictionary officials said twitterisms comprised a "notable word cluster" in 2009, including the following terms related to the social network: tweeps, tweetup, twitt, twitterati, twitterature, twitterverse/sphere, retweet, twibe, sweeple,tweepish, tweetaholic, twittermob, and twitterhea.

Words considered for "word of the year" were taken from technology, the economy, politics and current affairs, environment, and novelty words. They included the following, with links pointing to the usages that were considered:


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


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

zombie bank - a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support

Politics and Current Affairs

Ardi - (Ardipithecus ramidus) oldest known hominid, discovered in Ethiopia during the 1990s and announced to the public in 2009

birther - a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama's birth certificate

choice mom - a person who chooses to be a single mother

death panel - a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed

teabagger -a person, who protests President Obama's tax policies and stimulus package, often through local demonstrations known as "Tea Party" protests (in allusion to the Boston Tea Party of 1773)


brown state - a US state that does not have strict environmental regulations

green state - a US state that has strict environmental regulations

ecotown - a town built and run on eco-friendly principles

Novelty Words

deleb - a dead celebrity

tramp stamp - a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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