‘Unfriend’ as Oxford University Press Word of the Year: marketing ploy, (social) media hype

The word unfriend recently garnered the Oxford University Press’ Word of the Year recognition. Adrian Chen of Gawker realized that ‘the Word of the Year is a huge scam.’ He says that the past four winners are ‘all just hacky trend pieces from that year, in lexicographic form.’

To recall, the past four winners for Word of the Year are hypermiling (which is said to be ‘maximizing gas mileage by adjusting your car and driving techniques’), locavore (someone who adheres to the movement that ‘encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food), carbon neutral (‘reducing your carbon footprint,’ then ‘balancing your remaining emissions’), and podcast (‘a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player’).

Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program, defends the recognition, “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.”

As a verb, the word “unfriend” means ‘to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.’ Facebook users will definitely recognize the word “unfriend.” If you’re a Facebook account holder, it’s what you do to your e-stalker that was once your boyfriend or girlfriend before the relationship turned sour, even scary.

Chen says that the Oxford University Press itself ‘admitted that the Word of the Year is nothing more than a silly marketing ploy’ by picking a ‘testament to how much social media is affecting the lexicon.’


Via Gawker