Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Oxford University Press' Word of the Year was...

..."unfriend."

"It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “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.”

(I don't know about you but I get a kick out of "lex-appeal.")

In any case, the pace of language change seems to have ramped up in recent years thanks to inventions emanating from the technology world (Google as a verb, for instance, meaning to search). Being the pseudo-snob I am when it comes to language I once that that trend was dreadful, but I've changed my tune. With technology changing the world so fast, language must keep up.

In fact, it seems people are just as passionate about language as ever, judging by the comments on the Oxford blog referencing one of the finalists in the judging: Tea-bagger. Scores of commenters weighed on on the term, which has both political and sexual definitions (although Oxford avoided publishing the latter definition).

(P.S. None of our words of the day entries made the list, but then again, all of those are already in the dictionary).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Death of the written word? Hardly


We worry in these precincts about the death of the written word. But people actually read more today than in years (perhaps ever). True, "writing" has been redefined as more digital belching in many cases. But the immense amount of new information created every second of every day is written. Just spend a few minutes with a good real-time search site like Collecta and you see how much is bubbling up--some of it banal, but much of it worth a read and your valuable time.

HubSpot bird-dogs a study from the University of California at San Diego that bolsters the argument that the written word is thriving. Here's a link to the complete study.

Researchers Roger Bohn and James Short point out that reading as a percentage of our information consumption has actually tripled in the past 50 years if we use words (on printed page or digital screen) as a measurement. The chart shows the transformation of reading in the past 50 years.

So, those of you with a passion for writing, fear not. There's plenty of upside in our world. And given the vast amount of information that's produced every second in printed form, there will always be a demand for those who can write clearly, concisely and cleverly.

 

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