Language puritans who never got used to the casual verbing of the noun “friend” on Facebook now have a new abomination to contend with: The Oxford University Press has named “unfriend” as its 2009 word of the year.
A quick scan of the list of also-rans for the annual honor suggests that the word, which describes deleting someone from a list of contacts in social networking, is an apt choice for these contentious times. A sampling of the other nominees and their definitions:
birther – a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate
death panel – a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed
deleb – a dead celebrity
teabagger – a person, who protests President Obama’s tax policies and stimulus package, often through local demonstrations known as “Tea Party” protests (in allusion to the Boston Tea Party of 1773)
tramp stamp – a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman
zombie bank – a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support