Each media brings to life unexpected practices, and the words to enunciate them.
"Unfriend" is the American English "word of the year" according to Oxford University Press (USA). Facebook makes our life richer more with words than with friends. Facebook makes it as easy to unfriend... as to friend someone. Friends become a currency and Facebook a marketplace ("friends" for sale!).
Facebook is inflationist. A "friend" "follows", and maybe will "un-follow"! Followers are now everywhere, nolens volens... sometimes called subscribers. How to un-follow, un-subscribe?
Unfriend looks like a useful word, even beyond Facebook circles. According to lexicographers, it holds a lot of lex-appeal!
Why "unfriend" and not "defriend" (as in latin deficere / deficit)? Unfriend is neutral, in that there has never been friendship between the two parties. The opposite of befriend (befriend is an old transitive verb, 1559 according to Merriam-Webster) would be defriend, to get rid of a Facebook "friend".
Other words were considered as potential "word of the year" candidates. I like the portmanteau word "intexticated", sending and receiving texts -SMS- even while driving.
In order to test the innovative force of a verb, translate it. Not so simple, is it?! Because American business still dominates the online market, American English leads the way when it comes to linguistic creation. So are Chinese, French, German, Spanish speakers to use the American word? Translators, interpreters, help!
Come to think of it, do these languages have the same kind of popularity contest? We have mentioned the German contest in a previous post. What is the Chinese word of the year?
I came across a comment on the translation of the German word "Verfreundung" created by the German poet Paul Celan : the word is in between "Anfreundung" (becoming friends) and "Verfremdung" (becoming strangers). The prefix ver often connotes loss. The author suggests a French translation: "dés-amitié" like "désaccord" (there is also a word "désamour" and a verb "désaimer").
cf. Brigitta Eisenreich avec Bertrand Badiou, L'étoile de craie, Paris, Edition du Seuil, 2013, p. 207).
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