Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WNW: 2009 Word of the Year

Each year, The New Oxford American Dictionary picks a new word that has become a part of the lexicon and declares it the word of the year.

Past popular words of the year you might recognize include:

2005: truthiness (a word invented and popularized by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report)

2003: metrosexual (my husband's not, thank goodness)

2000: chad (memories of that election are enough to make us all have horrid flashbacks, right?)

1999: Y2K (if you're too young to remember this one, be glad)

1996: soccer mom (I wasn't then. I am now.)

And so on.

The word of the year selected for 2009:


I love it.

Generally speaking, "un" is added to adjectives to make them negative (unacceptable, unhappy, uncertain) and to some verbs to reverse them (unwind, undo, unpack).

Which means that unfriend implies that friend is a verb. The fun thing is that in today's world of social networking, friend has become a verb. We friend people on Facebook and other platforms, and therefore when we decide to drop them from our list of friends, we unfriend them.

But here's the part the word nerd part of me find completely fascinating.

In the OED, there's an entry for friend that's already a verb. It's obscure, and it's rare, but it's there. And as late as the 1800s, there are a few quotes that use friend as a verb, not in the computer sense that we do, of course, but in this sense in an unidentified quote from 1867:

"That germ of kindness . . . outlives my doom, and friends me in the pit of fire."

Final note:
If you live in southern Utah County, listen up!
A new urgent care clinic is opening its doors TODAY in Spanish Fork called Express Med. And today it's giving out FREE PIZZA. It's run by my amazing sister-in-law, who has won more awards that you can count and is a doctor of nursing. (They have those, did you know?!) She's flipping amazing. You'll want to check it out, I promise.

Express Med is at 415 North Main, Spanish Fork.


Kristina P. said...

I thought the term was Defriend? Hmmm.

I'm hoping that my word "Grinstipation" makes it next year.

Rebecca Irvine said...

I saw the news story on "unfriend." It is a nice indication of pop culture and the ever changing society with live in.

Angie said...

"Unfriend" is a great word, and I am so excited for an urgent care clinic in Spanish Fork. (Do you have to be sick today to get the free pizza?)

Annette Lyon said...

Angie, I'm sure you can be healthy and well--the pizza is in celebration of the opening.

(Tell the owners that you know me, and they'll give you slice regardless! :D)

LisAway said...

Oh, those are fun. And when I first read "truthiness" I didn't think much of it but when I read where it comes from I remembered and laughed out loud, remembering how much I love Stephen Colbert. Then I remembered how tactless, distasteful and unfunny I found his address at the whatever-it-was dinner with President Bush and was sobered to remember that I don't love him as much as I remembered. . .

Teri said...

I remember reading about these types for words in my linguistic course, and how they become mainstream. So very interesting. But then again, I'm a nerd.

Helena said...

Great choice.

Unknown said...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that "friend" was an older verb. The verb "befriend" has certainly been around a long time.

Yet the verb "unfriend" seems a little 'low budget' to me. Particularly since, outside Facebook circles, the only possible definitions smack of callousness.

My favorite on your list: Truthiness. It's the humor writer's 'get out of jail free' card!

Anonymous said...

I love that last quote. "friends me in the pit of fire."

I think I prefer the 1800s use. "Un" tends to give me the shivers.

Cranberryfries said...

Do you know if they give a list of runner-ups cause that'd be interesting. It's just interesting to me that out of a handful of words they could have used (even though I dont know what those would have been) they went with that. Although from the looks of it the others are very trendy also. Cool beans.

Sherrie said...

Very interesting stuff my friend. Thanks for sharing! I love the "unfriend" word/verb.

Lara Neves said...

I want you to come up with an 1800's usage of "unfriend." :)

I always love the new words. Very fun!

wendy said...

Unfriend---interesting word for sure.
I could define "friend" as a verb, as verbs require action ---and in order to be a friend, it requires DOING in my book.
just saying

I hope no one decides to "unfriend me"

* said...

Unfriending and pizza. Two things I love. No wait, not the unfriending bit, just the word, "unfriend." Which I've been on both ends of, unfortunately or sometimes, more fortunately than not.

Melanie Jacobson said...

See, I just figured that since I taught English, I could make up my own words for it. I guess I'll go through the OED from now. I do like unfriend.

Jessica G. said...

Hey, works for me! I was recently "unfriended" by someone I went to high school with. While I'm not exactly devastated (our lives are so different now that I was considering unfriending her), still kinda makes me frown.

An Ordinary Mom said...

This makes me curious to look at all the other recent word of the year words. How fun to be a part of history in the making!


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