HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014

Ages before Facebook, the first pal was unfriended in 1275

PTI  New Delhi , August 26, 2013
First Published: 02:33 IST(26/8/2013) | Last Updated: 10:50 IST(26/8/2013)

A few words which seem to be straight out of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s slangbag have actually been around for the past couple of centuries.


The word “unfriend”, an option to dump a friend on social networking website Facebook by clicking a button, was first used as a noun as far back as 1275. Its usage as a verb dates back to 1659.

“The verb unfriend, though it has gained widespread currency as the ultimate act of social severance in social media, dates back to 1659... It existed even earlier as a noun -- as far back as 1275,” wrote Simon Thomas, Oxford English Dictionaries’ blog editor, who keeps a tab on trending words.

“The nominal sense has yet to have a 21st-century renaissance, but was briefly revived in the 19th century by the Scottish novelist Walter Scott,” Thomas wrote in a post dedicated to words being used by today’s youth that are wrongly believed to be recent additions to the English language.

In 1659, Thomas Fuller, Church of England clergyman, wrote in “The appeal of injured innocence”: “I hope, sir, that we are not mutually un-friended by this difference which hath happened betwixt us.” Ditto for the word “text” - the first recorded usage of which was in 1564.

“True, that sense made no mention of the mobile phone (unsurprisingly), meaning instead ‘to cite texts’, but another 16th-century (1564) sense describes a situation familiar to anybody who has tried to convey shouting in a text message...,” Thomas wrote.

However, “lol” which is used as an acronym for “lots of love”, is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as “laughing out loud” since 1989. A 1960 usage refers to LOL as “little old lady”.

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