Monday the New Oxford American Dictionary named “unfriend” 2009’s word of the year.
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.”
“It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “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.”
We’ve looked at the word “unfriend” before, and it’s not a wholly inappropriate choice. I do, however, imagine it’ll be somewhat disheartening to reflect on 2009 as the year that friendship lost its currency. Although, perhaps that’ll be better than always remembering it as the year that the dollar lost its currency.
Here are some of the runners-up. I took the liberty of coloring gray the ones I thought were stupid choices, because they’re idiotic, unremarkable or little-used in the vernacular, or, as in the cases of Ardi and death panel, a beneficiary of the recency effect.