'Unfriend': Oxford's word of the year

'Unfriend' is different and has real 'lex-appeal', says lexicographer

The New Oxford American Dictionary has announced the verb "unfriend" as its word of the year, confirming the social networking term's ubiquity.

The definition: "To remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook."

On its blog, Oxford University Press quotes Senior Lexicographer Christine Lindberg as saying: "It 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!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal."

Other techie terms that were considered: hashtag, intexticated, netbook, paywall and sexting.

Oxford didn't ignore Twitter either, citing a notable word cluster including Twitt, Tweeple and other Twitterish terms.

Last year's Word of the Year: "hypermiling," which involves "maximising gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one's car and one's driving techniques."

Around the corner: Expect Merriam-Webster to announce its Word of the Year. Last year it was "bailout."

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