When the good folks at the New Oxford American Dictionary named “unfriend” its word of the year earlier this week, they likely had no idea they’d initiated the fiercest lexicographical debate since the Great McJob Controversy of 2003. That’s because many people including everyone at Daily Intel had been using the term “defriend” to refer to the act of removing one’s friend on Facebook. As proponents argued their cases on message boards across the Internet, Oxford University Press weighed in. “Unfriend was chosen because it’s much more common than defriend,” a publicist told ABC News. And she’s right: A look at Google Trends confirms that “unfriend” has been searched more frequently than “defriend,” even before the current dustup. In addition, a Google blog search shows that “unfriend” was used 30,400 times on blogs between January 1 and November 15, while “defriend” was used a paltry 1,327 times in the same period. Nevertheless, there’s always the possibility that people using “unfriend,” while in the majority, were just wrong. So we asked Facebook to settle the matter once and for all.
Of course, not wanting to alienate either the “unfriend” or “defriend” constituencies, Facebook took a middle-of-the-road approach. In response to our breathless inquiries, a spokesman told us:
Just as you may say ‘buddy’ and I may say ‘friend,’ people also use different terms to refer to the act of removing a friend connection. We use a few expressions ourselves, though on Facebook itself we simply describe the act itself rather than using a single word. The folks at Oxford are the experts on language, so we’ll leave it to them to decide what should make it in the dictionary. Overall, we’re thrilled that the idea of people connecting, or even disconnecting, with each other on sites like Facebook has officially become part of the lexicon.
So there you have it: However you want to dissolve your relationships is up to you. Just make sure you do it on Facebook.