Unfriend: the word of the year, apparently

The New Oxford American Dictionary has announced its Word Of The Year for 2009: unfriend. (Well, at least they didn't choose teabagger.) But in IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder if that's the best the wordmeisters could do.

By Richi Jennings. November 17, 2009.

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Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention urban cursor...

    Austin Modine drives the trends:

Blame social networking for the latest cutesy-pie neologism tapped as the ... 2009 Word of the Year: unfriend. Up against a range of tech-related buzzwords that included "netbook," "sexting," and "paywall," the ... New Oxford American Dictionary ... decided to celebrate the asocial side of online acquaintance-making.


Other finalists ... included: Hashtag ... Netbook ... Paywall ... Freemium ... Tramp Stamp ... Teabagger.

Oxford's Rebecca Ford is joyful:

Birds are singing, the sun is shining and I am joyful first thing in the morning without caffeine. Why you ask? Because it is Word of the Year time (or WOTY as we refer to it around the office). ... This announcement is usually applauded by some and derided by others and the ongoing conversation it sparks is always a lot of fun, so I encourage you to let us know what you think.


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 ... Unfriend has real lex-appeal.”

Devin Coldewey thinks on:

While it is perhaps not used as broadly as the newly-verbed friend, the latter is already in the dictionary, so they can’t very well call it new. The best they can do is run with unfriend, which implies and extends the other. A worthy choice, I think. ... It set me thinking, though: how prescient have Word of the Year choices been? Have they infallibly documented the rise of tech in mainstream language and culture? —or are they a dusty collection of buzzwords, a history of folly and haste?


Unfriend is, I think, one for the ages. But the others are groaners: intexticated? Funemployed? Sexting maybe, but we can’t nominate every clever portmanteau. If that were the case, half the words in the dictionary would be creations of my own. ... These word clusters provide an interesting cross-section of the culture around a certain word ... and its emergent phenomena — Twitterati is a good example of this, and a good word to keep around. The others I consign to the pit..

Jack Schofield gets grumpy:

As a Twitter user, I can't say I'm sorry to see the accolade (for what it's worth) go to Facebook. ... Either way, unfriend is better than last year's hypermiling, and at least they didn't pick staycation.

But Richard MacManus thinks it's an odd choice:

I think that's an odd choice for word of the year, as all the trends indicate there has been more social networking activity this past year - not less, as 'unfriend' implies. Facebook and Twitter have both rocketed in popularity in 2009. I'd suggest that more people have left MySpace and migrated to Facebook, than unfriended people on Facebook.

  I also think that 'unfriend' is an ugly word, so for that reason it shouldn't be Word of the Year. What's more, I don't think my Mum or Dad would be familiar with the term 'unfriend.'

Meanwhile, Isis Madrid tastes the flavor:

In honor of the word’s anointing, we’re presenting you with a list of the top five Facebook friends that you’ve always wanted to unfriend. Now you can do so while being grammatically correct. Thanks, Oxford!

  1. Farmville Guy/Girl: You know the one. They’re all up in your newsfeed taking in lost animals and asking for help growing their virtual carrots and potatoes. No I do NOT want to fertilize your crops...
  2. Emo Kid: Listen, this is a whole new, less depressing social networking site — not MySpace. Please stop crying in your Facebook picture, it’s super awkward for the rest of us...
  3. The Tweet-linker: Hey, Twitter’s cool…when it’s on Twitter. Please keep re-tweets off the Facebook arena, it is not the time or place. Conversely, if you’re going to be updating your status every five minutes, maybe you should pack it up and move to Twitter already...
  4. The Guy/Girl with TMI: Nobody wants to read your open letter to a scorned lover. Keep your infidelities off the internet, thanks...
  5. The Spoiler-er: Please don’t post how the Mad Men season finale ended, who won the game or that Ed Norton and Tyler Durden are the same person. I mean…what?

So what's your take?

Get involved: leave a comment.

    And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

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