Every November, The Oxford American Dictionary announces its selection for the Word of the Year (WOTY). This selection is made by a panel of lexicographers who nominate terms based on popularity in everyday discussion and cultural influence. Historically, these words have stemmed from widespread topical issues like high gas prices, locally grown foods and global warming. For example:
- WOTY 2008 – Hypermiling – To attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.
- WOTY 2007 – Locavore – One who consumes food from farmers’ markets or home-grown gardens with the belief that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better than the alternative.
- WOTY 2006 – Carbon-neutral – achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.
However, this year, the selection took a different direction, solidifying credibility for a widely accepted, though more unique issue facing millions of people today: unfriending.
Just this morning, The Oxford American Dictionary announced “unfriend” as the 2009 Word of the Year. This verb refers to the removal of someone from your friend list on a social network such as Facebook or MySpace.
Not only did a social media term take the gold medal, but runner ups included “hashtag,” “netbook.” “paywall,” and “sexting.”
The fact that past WOTYs have reflected such serious and legitimate issues proves the point of my post: social networking is serious and legitimate.
While digital communication may have seemed like a fad that appealed to computer geeks 20 years ago, the simple example of the term “unfriend” making its way into the official lexicon demonstrates the fact that social networking is the way of the future and will continue to become entrenched in our daily lives even more so than it is now.
Language is one of the most fundamental elements of civilized society. The fact that these social media trends have taken root in our vocabulary and we are now mandating acceptance by placing this simple term in the dictionary demonstrates the staying power of these platforms.
[Note: This post by Lauren Begley origionally appeared on PepperDigital]