Unfriend Me

A short item in The Times Literary Supplement caught my eye last week, printed on the back page of the periodical:

Oxford University Press has chosen "unfriend" as the Oxford Word of the Year, in view of the fact that it has recently gained currency as a verb — as in "I had to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight."

Sarah brought this to our attention months ago. Anyhow, J.C., the author of the "N.B." column, continues:

Unfriend, says OUP in that annoying look-how-unstuffy-we-are way, "has real lex-appeal." Lex, as if you needed to be told, is a contraction of lexicographer.

The lesson — or the evisceration, perhaps — begins in earnest:

We prefer to say that unfriend has Lear-appeal. It occurs as a participle in the first act of Shakespeare's play, when the troubled king tried to foist Cordelia on the Duke of Burgundy: "Will you, with those infirmities she owes, / Unfriended new-adopted to our hate .... Take her, or leave her?" A few lines later, the Duke of France utters another lexy word, employing "monster" as a verb. This usage is not recorded by Chambers, but is current among the Facebook generation, as in "X's blog was monstered by Y". In King Lear, the Duke of France suggests that Cordelia's offence, which has put her father in a rage, "Must be of such unnatural degree / That monsters it". Cordelia herself wishes her father were in "a better place".



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