Unfriend’s lex appeal makes it word of the year in US

“UNFRIEND” has been unveiled as the word of the year in the US, to the presumed delight of socially selective lexicographers everywhere.

The verb is used to described the act of removing someone from their list of acquaintances on social networking sites such as Facebook.

And such is its prevalence in modern conversation, “unfriend” topped the 2009 poll of new terms compiled by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Runners up in the poll include “deleb” – a dead celebrity, “sexting” – the sending of sexually explicit texts, and funemployed – the act of taking advantage of losing a job to pursue other, more fun, interests.

The Oxford University Press in the US put “unfriend” into context with the phrase: “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

A lot of the new buzzwords come from society’s use of technology to advance communication.

“Unfriend” and “sexting” is joined by “intexticated” – the act of being distracted due to tapping away on a mobile phone while driving a vehicle.

Etymologists welcomed the news that “unfriend” had been named as word of the year.

Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford University Press’s US dictionary programme, said: “It has both currency and potential longevity.

“Most ‘un-’ prefixed words are adjectives – unacceptable, unpleasant – and there are certainly some unfamiliar ‘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.”

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