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Word of the Year 2009

Birds are singing, the sun is shining and I am joyful first thing in the morning without caffeine. Why you ask? Because it is Word of the Year time (or WOTY as we refer to it around the office). Every year the New Oxford American Dictionary prepares for the holidays by making its biggest announcement of the year. This announcement is usually applauded by some and derided by others and the ongoing conversation it sparks is always a lot of fun, so I encourage you to let us know what you think in the comments.

Without further ado, the 2009 Word of the Year is: unfriend.

unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

As in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes 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. 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.”

Wondering what other new words were considered for the New Oxford American Dictionary 2009 Word of the Year? Check out the list below.

Technology

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

Economy

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

Environment

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

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