Home English News Long before Facebook, first pal was unfriended in 1275!

Long before Facebook, first pal was unfriended in 1275!


AUG 26- 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.

FB-Unfriend“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 (OED) as “laughing out loud” since 1989. A 1960 usage refers to LOL as “little old lady”.

The idea of online fora Facebook and Twitter being used as “social networks” were recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1998, but the term used to describe “a system of social interactions and relations” is far older.

Unfriend-a-Facebook-friend-without-unfriending-them“It is first cited in the OED from JB Gough, who wrote ‘I again became involved in a dissipated social network’ in his 1845 autobiography…” writes linguist Arika Okrent on MentalFloss, an ezine.

Okrent also lists “dude”, “dudery” and “babe”, on her list of 16 words that are much older than they seem.

She cites a 1889 phrase — “The Pharisaical dudery which presumes to deny her (woman) a place in the world…equal with man” – to show that the sense of the usage over the centuries is the same.

“Babe”, used in the sense of “hot chick”, has a very 1970s ring to it. But this sense of babe has been around since the early 1900s. The OED gives a quote from 1915: “She’s some babe.”

Other dated but widely used words on her list are “funky”, “hipster”, “frigging”, “booze” and “tricked out”.

“Booze” has been a general slang for alcoholic drink at least since the 1850s, and it has a longer history as a Middle English verb “bouse,” meaning “to drink excessively” in the 1500s.