'Unfriend' Picked as American Word of the Year

      November 18, 2009 09:04

      The New Oxford American Dictionary published by Oxford University has chosen "unfriend" as the word of the year. "Unfriend" is a new coinage meaning, "To remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook."

      "It has both currency and potential longevity," said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's U.S. dictionary program, on Monday. "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."

      Lindberg added, "'Unfriend' is unique in that most 'un' prefixed words are not verbs. 'Friend' particularly, hasn't been used as a verb since at least the 17th century."

      Runner-up candidates for word of the year include "hashtag" -- a hash sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets; "tramp stamp" -- a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman; "birther" -- a conspiracy theorist who challenges U.S. President Barack Obama's U.S. birth certificate; and "death panel" -- a term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin used to criticize Obama's healthcare plan.

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