‘Unfriend’ is Word of the Year

We all know that Twitter is taking over from all other human activity. Now, the New Oxford American Dictionary has decided on its Word of the Year – and it’s ‘unfriend’.

It’s used as a verb – for example, “I’ve unfriended Oxford University Press for making fatuous announcements”.

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” glows Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “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.”

She’s even more excited about the lexicography. “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,” she says. “It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used – at least not since maybe the 17th century!”

Other finalists included hashtag – a hash sign added to a word or phrase to enable Twitter users to search for tweets that contain similarly tagged items; intexticated – distracted by texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle – and netbook.

Not all of the contenders came from the world of technology. There’s also birther – a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate – and deleb: a dead celebrity.

See the full list here.