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Unfriend, with real lex-appeal, word of the year for Oxford American Dictionary

Wednesday, November 18th 2009 - 03:02 UTC
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Unfriend“ has been named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, chosen from a list of finalists with high technical jargon. Unfriend was defined as a verb that means to remove someone as a ”friend” on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace.

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's US dictionary program, in a statement. “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!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal”.

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.'

Fremium: 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.

In 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).

In Environment: 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.

Categories: Politics, International.

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