Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The WOTY is What Now?

It's Word of the Year time! The WOTY! (Good Lord, if I ever use the term 'WOTY' again just in just a casual context like I just did, please shoot me.) Every year, for some reason (and I'm blaming The Internets), the Oxford English Dictionary, the ol' OED gives us what they have deemed the Word of the Year. They are, apparently, the only ones who get any say in this sort of thing. I'm actually glad about that because if it were left up to the general public to vote, the Word of the Year would almost always be something like "hella" or "piehole", both of which barely qualify for words as it is, let alone Word of the Year. What I'm not so glad about was this year's winner.

And the Word of the Year as dubbed so by the folks over there at the Oxford English Dictionary and no matter what you say is.......


Wait. What now? "Unfriend"? You mean as in to remove someone from your Facebook because they were being a douche to you? I thought it was "defriend". What in the hell is "unfriend"? Well, according to the Oxford University Press (that would be those who do the OED), "unfriend" is "defriend". And while according to OUP that "unfriend" is "defriend", according to me, "unfriend" is wrong.

If I were the only one to think that it should be "defriend" instead of "unfriend" it probably would not stop me from ranting about it. But I am not the only one who thinks that it should be "defriend". In fact, so many people were doing the Scooby head tilt at this one that they asked the OED people what they were thinking how they came to this conclusion. According to a story over there at ABC News, a one Lauren Appelwick, a publicist with Oxford University Press, Inc., said, "Unfriend was chosen because it's much more common than defriend." She also stated that she "couldn't elaborate on Oxford's methodology." Right. Because if we all knew how you came up with the lame-ass "unfriend" as being more popular than "defriend" then we'd all be going out there and doing our own word popularity studies. Uh, no. (Translation: We blew it, but we're not telling you that. "Unfriend" is our story and we're sticking to it.)

She added that "It's funny because there seem to be little clusters of people who have never heard the word "unfriend,"...but added that research indicated that "unfriend is far, far more popular." Yeah. It's funny, all right. Hilarious. Hmm...I don't know about folks who have never heard of the word "unfriend" (that seems completely unlikely unless those "clusters" are folks who are over eighty), but you know who doesn't use the word "unfriend"? That would be a one Chris Hughes. Who now?

Chris Hughes. You've probably heard of what he's accomplished rather than who he is. He's one of the three guys who invented freaking Facebook. According to, Hughes says “I was surprised that that was the word that they’ve chosen." The article also stated that "Hughes says that’s the term he and his friends use" and "Instead of “unfriend,” he would have gone with “defriend.” But, the OED folks did extensive research that they're not going to explain to us, but we're supposed to take their word that all of us who have only used "defriend" are in the minority (perhaps even in the "clusters" with the oldsters). Whatevers.

Over there at the Oxford University Press blog, we learn that according to a one Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “It has both currency and potential longevity. 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." Oh, it's an interesting choice all right...because it's wrong!

In order to make the incorrect choice of "unfriend" for Word of the Year, the OED folks had to sift through some other words which they held in contention for the title. Of those, I have heard of most of them. The ones that I don't think I have ever heard used in the mainstream lexicon of English speech would include:

intexticated - distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle (See, I don't call this behavior "intexticated", I call this "being a dumbass".)

choice mom - a person who chooses to be a single mother (Sooooo....lesbian?)
deleb - a dead celebrity (I have never run across this term being used anywhere. And really, after the 24/7 coverage that went on way too long covering the demise of Jacko, I'd really prefer that they don't refer to them as any particular term and that they just stop talking about it, for cryin' out loud.)

paywall - a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers (Yeah, the term is pay wall, not paywall. Oh, but don't worry. It really is "unfriend"!)

Other words in the running which I am thankful did not take top honors included:

birther - a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate (Translation: Moron.)

death panel - a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed. (Theoretical? Shouldn't that be hypothetical? I don't know of a scenario in which that theory would be applicable. But don't worry! It's unfriend! For sure!)

And my personal favorite: 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)

Yeah, that's not quite exactly what folks are meaning when they're using the term "teabagger". See, I think that the term that the OED folks are looking for is teapartier or teapartier. See, a "teabagger" is a somewhat derogatory term due to the fact that it's a slang term meaning to place one’s scrotum on the face, eyes or mouth of an unsuspecting person. It is in no way a pleasant experience for the one getting "teabagged" (as the description would imply. A scrotum that isn't yours in your face? Very unpleasant indeed.)

But again, don't worry! They're sure that it's "unfriend".

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