Oxford's Word Of The Year

I’ve heard of Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars, Grammies, Emmies and Tonys. But what’ s this? An Oxie?

The New Oxford American Dictionary has just announced its Word of the Year. Who knew? And guess what? The new word has to do with technology and social networking! Apparently, social media is on the minds of staid old dictionary publishers too.

The “Oxie” is presented to the 2009 WotY winner  — “unfriend.”

“Unfriend” is a verb. It means to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site. This is to be distinguished from “unfollow” which means to stop subscribing to someone’ s posts on a blog, microblog or aggregation site. “Unfriend” is deeper-rooted. It suggests the severing of a more meaningful connection, such as can be found in places like Facebook and MySpace.

Senior Lexicographer at Oxford U.S. Christine Lindberg explains the choice:

“It has both currency and potential longevity…. 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. 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.”

“Lex-appeal?” Now why didn’t that word make the cut?

You might be interested in some of the runners-up. Here they are, by category:


hashtag – a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets

intexticated – distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle

netbook – a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory

paywall – a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers

sexting – the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone


freemium – a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content

funemployed – taking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests

zombie bank – a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support

Politics and Current Affairs

Ardi(Ardipithecus ramidus) oldest known hominid, discovered in Ethiopia during the 1990s and announced to the public in 2009

birther – a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate

choice mom – a person who chooses to be a single mother

death panel – a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed

teabagger -a person, who protests President Obama’s tax policies and stimulus package, often through local demonstrations known as “Tea Party” protests (in allusion to the Boston Tea Party of 1773)


brown state – a US state that does not have strict environmental regulations

green state – a US state that has strict environmental regulations

ecotown – a town built and run on eco-friendly principles

Novelty Words

deleb – a dead celebrity

tramp stamp – a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman

Check out the Oxford post here. And Hat Tip to Resource Shelf.


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