Word of the Year Has 'Lex-Appeal'

November 21, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – There’s something decidedly unfriendly about the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2009 Word of the Year.


Their choice, “unfriend” is a verb that, as social networking aficionados can attest, means “to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.” 

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US 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. Most ‘un-‘ prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar ‘un-‘ verbs (uncap, unpack), but ‘unfriend’ is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal.” 

Among their other activities, lexicographers at Oxford University Press track how the vocabulary of the English language is changing from year to year. And, according to a press release, every year, the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is debated and chosen, with the selection made to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use. 

But, personally, I found some of the finalists to be a bit more “interesting.” 

Word of the Year Finalists:


  • hashtag - a # [hash] sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets (postings on the Twitter site) that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets
  • intexticated - distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle
  • netbook - a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory
  • paywall - a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers
  • sexting - the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone


  • freemium - a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content
  • funemployed - taking advantage of one's newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests
  • zombie bank - a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support

Politics and Current Affairs 

  • Ardi -(Ardipithecus ramidus) oldest known hominid, discovered in Ethiopia during the 1990s and announced to the public in 2009
  • birther - a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama's US birth certificate
  • choice mom - a person who chooses to be a single mother
  • death panel - a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed
  • 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


  • brown state - a US state that does not have strict environmental regulations
  • green state - a US state that has strict environmental regulations
  • ecotown - a town built and run on eco-friendly principles

Novelty Words 

  • deleb - a dead celebrity
  • tramp stamp - a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman

Notable Word Clusters

 Twitter related: 

    Tweeps                   Twibe

    Tweetup                  Sweeple

    Twitt                    Tweepish

    Twitterati               Tweetaholic

    Twitterature             Twittermob

    Twitterverse/sphere      Twitterhea



    Obamanomics              Obamaeur

    Obamarama                Obamanator

    Obamasty                 Obamaland

    Obamacons                Obamalicious

    Obamanos                 Obamacles

    Obamanation              Obamania

    Obamafication            Obamacracy

    Obamamessiah             Obamanon

    Obamamama                Obamalypse