Monday, January 18, 2010

Word (Nerd) of the Year

It may be kind of old news, but according to the New Oxford American Dictionary the 2009 Word of the Year (WOTY) is unfriend.

Whoops—spellcheck is not clued in, and has underlined unfriend in a very red-wavy-line unfriendly sort of way. Of course, it did the same thing to ‘spellcheck’, so I guess there’s a problem there of a different sort. Ah—who knew? It’s spell-check. Color me corrected.

I love this Word of the Year announcement. I mean, how nerdy do you have to be to get a kick out of this? I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I must be way over the top on the Nerd-o-Meter.

Every year these people track changes in the English language. New words are added to the lexicon as deemed necessary. A WOTY is selected to “reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use.”

Huh? And they came up with ‘unfriend’?

"It has both currency and potential longevity," said Christine Lindberg, a language researcher for Oxford's U.S. 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."

In case you’ve been living underground for the past couple of years, here’s the official Oxford definition of the word in question:

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

Unfriend actually had serious competition for the title, you should know. Other finalists were ‘netbook’, ‘hashtag’ and ‘sexting’. That sound you hear is the clatter of every English teacher and lover of literature who ever lived collectively spinning in their graves. Yes. ‘Sexting’. It’s an official word. I know what it means, I hear it used in the media, but seriously—couldn’t we just keep it as a kind of off-the-record sort of thing? It’s just odd to make it a bona fide part of the language, isn’t it? I’m totally not a prude, but aren’t there just a zillion stories of teenagers messing up their lives by sexting (whoa, spell-check is SO out-of-date) photos of themselves that turn them (and their contacts) into registerable sex offenders for distributing child pornography? We are a messed up people.

I guess new words, of necessity, will be mostly technology-related. I got unfriended a couple of years ago by someone I considered a close friend. But she did it the old-fashioned way—in a hand-written letter. How very 2007 of her. I guess some people just can't keep up.


  1. I am so out of date...I had no idea all these neat new words were actually official now. Guess I need to get a new dictionary.

  2. OH, I am right up there with you on the nerd-o-meter!

  3. *Shaking head and wringing hands in despair.*

    Couldn't agree more with you. There are some things better left unacknowledged.

  4. Hey Leah, I was expecting them to proudly unveil new "one spelling fits all" versions of it's, bought and there, with a side order of apostrophes in all plurals. But then I remembered that it was just a broken educational system.