November 17, 2009
Posted: 02:07 PM ET
By Doug Gross
And, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, it's the word of the year.
"Unfriend" beat out a tech-heavy field that included "netbook," "hashtag" and "sexting" to take the annual honor.
"It has both currency and potential longevity," said Christine Lindberg, a language researcher for Oxford's U.S. 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."
Oxford defines "unfriend," a verb, thusly: "To remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook."
Every year, Oxford tracks how the English language is changing. Researchers debate the merits of newly birthed terms and choose their word of the year "to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use."
A hashtag is the symbol (#) used on Twitter posts to allow them to be found more easily by other users, a netbook is a small portable laptop, and "sexting" is the act of sending sexually explicit texts or photos on a mobile phone.
Other tech-related finalists this year were "paywall," a way of blocking parts of a Web site to all but paying customers, and "intexicated," the state of being distracted while driving because of sending a text message.
The economy provided "zombie bank," a financial institution still operating even though its liabilities are greater than its assets, and politics brought us "birther," which Oxford describes as "a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama's U.S. birth certificate."
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