You May Officially "Unfriend" Now

As you may have heard, the New Oxford American Dictionary has chosen "unfriend" as its 2009 Word of the Year*.

unfriend (ən-ˈfrend), verb: To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

It may seem odd that "unfriend" is a verb while "friend" is typically used as a noun (outside of networking sites!). Actually, in the 13th century, people did use "friend" as a verb instead of "befriend". That's a truly random fact for you all!

What makes a word worthy of "Word of the Year"? Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary 2e, answers with: “We are always looking for a word that is both reflective of the events and concerns of the past year and also forward-looking: a word that we think will only become more used and more useful as time goes on.”

Wonder what past Words of the Year were?

2008: Hypermiling, verb
- attempting to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques

2007: Locavore, noun
- one who uses locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives.

2006: Carbon Neutral, adjective
- describes one who calculates one's total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reduces them where possible, and then balances his/her remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.

2005: Podcast, noun
- a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.

Although I don't think all of those words gained popularity after they won WOY, they were officially added to the online version of the New Oxford American Dictionary anyway! Feel free to use any of these or "unfriend" in your next term paper kids: it's now legit!

*to see a list of other words that were in the running this year, check out the Oxford University Press's blog here.

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