Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unfriend

The New Oxford American Dictionary has picked its word of the year, and that word is "unfriend." When asked as to the criteria for choosing that ghastly word, it cited that "unfriend" is very current and has the potential for longevity. I just cringe reading about this piece of news.

I'm not a language purist and I love how dynamic English is, but celebrating a grammatically incorrect usage of a particular word does not bode well for the next generation. I'm not comfortable with using the word "friend" as a verb, much less its negative. Surely we can think of other quirky words that appear frequently this year which are used correctly.

How long before "unfriend" finds its way into fiction and (gasp!) our textbooks? Would our children and children's children ever learn that the true context of the word does not necessarily involve social networking sites? Argh...

How about you, dear reader? Are you peeved about this word? Or is some other word bugging you? Let me know. Perhaps we can "friend" each other in Facebook.

19 comments:

Portobello's coffee said...

ang future perfect tense version ba nito in tag-lish is "ifrefriend"??

as in "Ifrefriend ko lang sha kung ifrefriend niya ako. Asim!"

that was your jologs comment of the week. :D

josbookshelf said...

"Unfriend"?! Ghastly! I hope it never finds it way into mainstream English. (Shudder, shudder)

Although with the strange coinage of words going around in networking sites, I think correct English is fighting a losing battle. With words like these, the language is morphing into its tacky version.

Peter S. said...

@Portobello's coffee: I believe it's "will have unfriended."

@josbookshelf: It is very ghastly!

Peter S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StephanieD said...

One thing I learned from my History of the English Language class (which was actually harder than taking a foreign language) was that language is always in flux. Many accepted words or practices today, even those we deem "proper," were once considered to be grammatically incorrect. However, "unfriend" is offensive to me because of its meaning.

Peter S. said...

Hi, StephanieD! Oh yes, it is offensive. They could've chosen a more positive word, right?

Amanda said...

I love the word, but I've always played with words that way. It's the beauty of English. The fact that we're so fluid is amazing. Absolutely love it!

Jeane said...

I guess it was bound to happen, but I find this word rather disturbing.

Peter S. said...

@Amanda: I love the fluidity of English too. I just feel uncomfortable using that word.

@Jeane: Disturbing indeed.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

If one can be unfriendly, I think one can unfriend another person, right?

Though I was a much bigger fan of truthiness, I don't have much of a problem with the newest word of the year selection, though I wouldn't use "unfriend" in my own writing or in conversation.

However, I do sometimes use facebook as a verb, so my opinion on this issue probably isn't worth much to you.

Are you as opposed to "unfollow" as you are unfriend? :) And what word would you have chosen if you could pick the word of the year?

Peter S. said...

Hi, Amber! Thank you for your very fascinating insight on these words! I think I can use "unfollow" since "follow" is really a verb.

Hmmm... Tough question on what word I would've chosen. Let me think about that.

line of flight said...

well. i think the problem here is that the correct original action verb is to "befriend" and thus, the proper word -- proper in the sense of following the internal grammatical logic and custom of the language -- is to un-befriend as in befriend: unbefriend :: do : undo . however, one quirk of english is the elimination of elements of words which are not strictly necessary to derive meaning between communicators in the language. so... i would prefer unbefriend to unfriend, but i also prefer letters sent by post to e-mail and still find myself turning out an inordinate amount of e-mail every day.

Indigo said...

Seems to me a lazy definition of "unfriendly". Sigh. I think this change, the movement away from proper English started its downfall with sites such as Twitter and Facebook; Add in the texting to the mix. The need to say as many words with as few characters as possible. Unfortunately, it also decimates word usage and doesn't allow for an over large vocabulary.

Personally I think the word is devoid of anything meaningful. It comes across as cold and as I said a lazy form of English. (Hugs)Indigo

Charlie said...

Are we moving toward a techno language where all conversation is limited to 140 characters? Are we dumbing down American English? I believe yes and yes.

"Unfriend" is ghastly. What is wrong with saying, "I no longer want to be your friend?"

So don't worry, Peter: I'm not going to unfriend you.

Tina said...

In this lively discussion no one so far has commented on the sad fact that the 'unfriend' word came about because of the social networking world's adoption of the word 'friend' to mean anyone I've ever bumped into in a store, car, at the doctor's, online, via someone I really consider a FRIEND. The use of the term friend in today's online world has left the original word stripped of the deep, emotional, ongoing relationship attachment that used to be considered when one said "He is my friend."

I have NO problem with unfriend...most of the people who have been 'friended' on my FB page are people I'm only marginally connected to, and when I was a FB newbie (another ugly word) I was too embarrassed to say "H--L NO" go away---I don't want to be your friend - I don't even know who you are!" So I later had to "unfriend" them so I didn't have to clutter up my page with lots of blabber in which I was not interested.

Yes english is a splendid language, and sometimes these new words, while not sitting well with the grammarians among us, really do say exactly what they are intended to mean. After all, it seems to be the use of a noun for a verb that is causing all the ansgt.

Hang in there Peter, I consider you a 'virtual' friend -so maybe we need to come up with a new word - a VF maybe?

Alexia561 said...

While I understand that English is constantly evolving as a language, I really don't like this particular word. Unfriend just seems so....wrong, somehow.

Promise not to "unfriend" you Peter! In fact, stop by my blog
when you have a chance, as I've got a friendly little surprise for you! :)

Logan said...

Ugh, I hate to think about the road down which language is headed. I suppose the idea that language has to evolve with people and ideas, but...ugh.

This was a great post. I'm sure a lot of words that are commonplace for us now were frowned upon by older generations as incorrect/ improper...

line of flight said...

here here! language is a process, not a thing, so our rules of grammar, etc., are all as mythical and paradoxical as "instantaneous speed"

but i comment against because I agree with Tina's point. I have very few friends and many acquaintances. the whole internet social networking thing is like the mad hatter in Disney's version of Alice in Wonderland -- a very merry unbirthday to you! its like an Orwellian gesture without the big brother.

Stepford Mum said...

I remember how shocked I was to realize "text" had turned into a verb that was internationally recognized. Filipinos have saying "Text me" since the mobile short messaging service was launched in the mid-nineties, but when I visited London in 1997 and met up with old schoolfriends, they would tell me to text them to plan our next meeting! So I suppose it really is the evolution of the English language.

As children, we would tell each other "I'm not friending you anymore," so perhaps the new verb "friend" and its counterpart "unfriend" just have us going back to our years of early grammar development?