Words of the Year 2009

Well, the words of the year lists have started coming out and already they have me painfully rolling my eyes (apparently you can’t roll them allllll the way back–once you get so far, it really hurts!) and ranting to my computer. At which time, my computer said, don’t tell me, go post on your blog about it.

Let’s start with the University of Oxford Press. They’ve named ‘unfriend’ as its word of the year. I know they just pick these things to cause debate but for me this particular word and this particular whole list makes me want to ‘unlearn’ what I’ve read on their list. For those of you who don’t know, ‘unfriend’ is a verb and means “to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook”. Now, I don’t know what the reasons for this being the word of the year are.  Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program, says that the word has “real lex-appeal” and explains some more in their announcement. It’s not a particularly wonderful word to say as in, say my own personal favourite word, nonchalant. It’s not really a twist on the meaning of words like, for instance, the word Stephen Colbert created and Merriam-Webster named its 2006 word of the year, ‘truthiness’. ‘Unfriend’ seems boring and I’m pretty sure no one will understand it in ten, maybe five, maybe even one year. Really, the whole list has some pretty sad sack words, like ‘hashtag’ (the hash sign you add into twitter posts as a way of tagging certain words) and the ridiculous–I am not kidding you here–‘teabagger’ which the Oxford University Press says refers to a person who takes part in the anti-Obama Tea Party protests, but which is much better know as someone who partakes in teabagging which is, um, well, I’ll let Wikipedia tell you about it.

When you look at their complete list of notable words, it’s hard to find one that’s not related to either technology or Obama. Oh, but there’s “tramp stamp’ (a tattoo on the lower back of a woman) which has only been around since about 2003. Oxford University Press, if you were my facebook friend, you know what I’d do, don’t ya? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the word of the year.

Then onto Webster’s New World which has chosen as its word of the year, “Distracted Driving”. Hmm, is that a word? I mean, it’s two words, maybe more of a term of the year. But, maybe some of their other notable words could be more like words. There’s um, well, they say that other notable ‘words’ are ‘cloud computing’ and ‘wallet biopsy’, ‘wrap rage’ and ‘go viral’. Here’s one: Word— “a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use” or “any segment of written or printed discourse ordinarily appearing between spaces or between a space and a punctuation mark”. Maybe you could get your head around that one and then give us a word of the year.

I know, that’s just two words of the year, but the others are not out yet (at least I couldn’t find them). I’ll get back to you when Merriam-Webster’s and the American Dialect Society tells us their picks. I bet they’ll be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Now, THAT is a word.

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