Facebook's 'Unfriend' is Oxford Dictionary's Word Of The Year

In a statement that says much about Facebook's influence on cultural norms and its dominance as a social networking platform, the New Oxford American Dictionary picked "unfriend" as its word of the year for 2009, beating out the more politically slanted likes of "birther" and "death panels."

For Facebook dilettantes, "unfriend" is a verb and it means to remove someone as a friend from a social networking site, be it Facebook or MySpace or another. Quoted on the Oxford University Press blog Monday, Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's US dictionary program, described the word as having "both currency and potential longevity."

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, there were a number of finalists for word of the year that have to do with the new technology lexicon. "Sexting," "hashtag," "intexticated," "netbook" and "paywall" were all up for consideration as well, alongside economic terms like "funemployed" and environmental buzzwords like "green state."

Facebook's ubiquity likely had something to do with the choice. Facebook first surpassed once-mighty MySpace as the world's most popular social networking platform back in June 2008 and finally overtook MySpace in the United States -- in terms of overall social networking traffic -- in June 2009, six months after overtaking MySpace in unique visitors.

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"Unfriend" and "unfriending" are here to stay, the New Oxford camp contends.

"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," said Lindberg. "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!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal."

What do you think, readers? "Unfriend" for word of the year? Let us know what your choice would be in a pointedly argued, potentially disruptive post to the ChannelWeb Connect community.