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Oxford Dictionary Announces Word of the Year

November 17, 2009

I know, I know. You all have been biting your nails for days waiting for this decision to be made, but never fear, friends, the word of the year is here!

Drum roll, please.

So, what has Oxford Dictionary determined to be the most important, most iconic, most In word of 2009?

Unfriend.

According to Christine Lindberg, the senior lexicographer at Oxford (which is a totally sweet job), the word “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!).”

I think this is an okay choice. What I’m most curious about is why they chose the negative term, rather than “friend,” now used as a verb. Perhaps because it isn’t a new word? I don’t know, it makes me a little down and seems to cast a shadow over the year. Like, “2009 was the year where all our relationships fell apart,” or “2009 was the year where we actually cared about this shit.” I understand their reasoning behind choosing a social-media-related term, but I just don’t feel that of all the techy terms out there that “unfriend” was the word of the year.

Of course you’re wondering, “what other words coulda been a contenda?” The list reads:

  • hashtag
  • intexticated
  • netbook
  • paywall
  • sexting
  • freemium
  • funemployed
  • zombie bank
  • Ardi
  • birther
  • choice mom
  • death panel
  • teabagger (no, not that kind)
  • brown state
  • green state
  • ecotown
  • deleb
  • tramp stamp (um, helloooo! “Tramp stamp” is sooo 2005.)

I have to say I’m kind of disappointed. Most of these are so terribly off the mark that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them before this list. Really, the only ones I think are appropriate to be on there are “sexting” and “death panel.” They also missed what I think are some really obvious ones. Where’s “recessionista,” which I couldn’t stand after hearing it twice? Or “staycation?” Maybe instead of doing “hashtag” they could’ve just used “Twitter,” because, really, who uses “hashtag” in conversation? What about “bailout” or
“vampire” (or anything else related to Twilight for that matter)? How about a little phrase known as “swine flu?” And there’s just has to be something related to Michael Jackson to throw in there.

Anyway, all this is to say that ever since I read the word “unfriend,” I’ve had this scene from The Office stuck in my head:

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