Christine Lindberg is a woman of many words.
As the senior lexicographer for Oxford's dictionary program in the United States, Lindberg said she maintains the ``heart and soul'' of the dictionary program in her office in Edmeston.
One might imagine the job is a quiet, scholarly one. But Lindberg said she and her word colleagues have had an influx of questions about, and reactions to, the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2009 Word of the Year: unfriend.
The word isn't in the dictionary, but a media release lists it as:
unfriend, verb _ To remove someone as a ``friend'' on an online social-networking site, such as Facebook.
Lindberg said she has been interviewed many times since the featured word was announced in a media release Nov. 16. She has been interviewed for media outlets large and small, including National Public Radio, Voice of America and The Daily Star.
"I've done so many interviews,'' Lindberg said Monday in a telephone chat from her home in Edmeston.
The featured word was chosen by a team of word-watchers, and the release said other finalists included "funemployed,'' taking advantage of newly unemployed status to have fun, and "teabagger,'' a person who protests President Obama's tax policies often through demonstrations known as a "tea party.''
Unfriend also has been widely discussed in blogs and other online avenues.
Lindberg, 55, said she makes monthly trips to New York City for her job, staying at a hotel in Poughkeepsie. She didn't have a tally of how many interviews she has given, but said that Tuesday and Wednesday of last week were the busiest. Demand lessened for awhile but has picked up again this week.
A week ago today, she was so busy answering interview requests that she had to stay in her hotel an extra night, she said.
"We've just been barraged,'' Lindberg said. "This year has been unprecedented.''
A search on Google of her name and "unfriend'' has resulted in thousands of hits, she said. Repeat searches showed hits increasing from 3,000 to 9,000 to 12,000.
Not all interview requests could be accommodated, Lindberg said.
Lindberg, who started working for the New Oxford Dictionary in 1997, moved from Guilford, Conn., to Edmeston in 2005, bringing her job with her.
The New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is chosen to reflect ``the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use,'' the release said.
Lindberg attributes the interest in unfriend to its origins in a technological medium and frequent use. Some bloggers have argued that to remove someone from their online social network is to "defriend'' not unfriend, she said. The "defriend'' description is fine, she has responded to queries during interviews.
``We are reporters of the language, not dictators,'' Lindberg said. ``We are ever-vigilant of words and trends.''
The high level of interest in unfriend and its Word of the Year status also is a factor of younger generations who are blogging and interacting online, said Lindberg. The Word of the Year isn't necessarily a word that will be added to the dictionary, she said, and next year's featured word may not even exist.
However, ``friend'' in the 17th century was a verb, Lindberg said, and the younger generation's use of unfriend has meant the resurrection of the word in an active form.
``It's back in the language,'' she said, and broad use is likely to result in the addition of unfriend to the dictionary.
``I love the word,'' she said. ``It has lex-appeal.''