Wednesday, 18 November 2009

American English word of the year is unfriend

The New Oxford American Dictionary has declared that the word of the year for 2009 is the verb unfriend.

That seems a sign of the times - unfriending people is a word that “has both currency and potential longevity", according to Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for the New Oxford American Dictionary. It's a pity the friendships don't also have longevity. I must admit to a cynical attitude about friendships maintained exclusively on Facebook without some personal interaction to bolster them. And perhaps we live in times when everything is disposable. Even people.

Lindberg says
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!).
I recently posted about Chad Taylor's use of the modern verb friend and I subsequently discovered a Grammarphobia Blog entry dating a similar verb, to friend, back to the thirteenth century.

No comments: