18 November 2009

Word of the Year: "unfriend"

Here's the news language junkies have been waiting for — the New Oxford American Dictionary has selected its Word of the Year for 2009. It shouldn't be surprising that it's associated with social networking, a new activity that has become so much a part of our culture that even my relatives in their 70s and 80s are doing it. When one of my sons signed up for Facebook a couple years ago, he did it because it was the cool thing to do. And now his grandmother is one of his "friends."

And that brings us to the word: It's "unfriend," which means to delist someone as one of your friends on Facebook or another social network.

It's not a bad word, although I think that "defriend" makes a lot more sense. But apparently more folks use the former. And since dictionaries these days reflect language as the way it is used rather than the way it should be, "unfriend" it is.

And it could have been worse. Among the other words considered were "intexticated" (driving while texting, a definite no-no in my book), "deleb" (a dead celebrity) and "death panel" (Sarah Palin's bogus description of what health reform would bring).

Actually, there was one other word Oxford considered that was worthwhile: "netbook," a small, inexpensive laptop computer intended primarily for Internet use. Like "unfriend," "netbook" isn't a novelty word and fits a real need, making it likely to last.

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