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Facebook digs in as 'unfriend' named Word of the Year

In another sign of how Facebook has woven itself into pop culture, the New Oxford American Dictionary has named “unfriend” its 2009 Word of the Year.

The verb means to remove someone from a list of friends on a social networking site, such as Facebook. Think of it as, “I left my job and unfriended some of my old co-workers.”

“It has both currency and potential longevity,” said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's U.S. dictionary program, in a statement. “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.”

And don't think that “unfriend” was the only technical word considered for Word of the Year.

The word “netbook” was considered, along with “hashtag” and “sexting”, which means sending sexually explicit messages or photos over a cell phone. Another word that was considered is “intexticated”, which means a person is distracted by texting while driving.

Twitter-related words that almost made the cut include: Tweetup , Tweetaholic, Twittermob and retweet.

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