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English language falls to the Slashdot effect

Also bossnapped, defriended and redacted during 2009

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A list of notable new additions to our beloved mother tongue reveals that the interwebs continued to enhance the lexicon during 2009, with hashtag, tweetup and the Slashdot effect featuring large on the manifest of neologisms.

Out in the real world, English enjoyed the particularly French pastime of "bossnapping" (preventing management from leaving company premises), "jeggings" (leggings made from material resembling denim) and the agreeably resurrected* "snollygoster" (a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politico).

The linguistic newbies were selected by TV show Countdown's dictionary botherer Susie Dent, who led a trawl of two billion words to compile the pick of the crop.

She said: "It has been another rich year. Last year, we found that 'credit crunch' was the most familiar new word, and the effect of the recession has stayed with us through 2009."

Indeed, try the current "Great Recession" for size (cf "Great Depression"), which might force the cash-strapped to enjoy a "staycation" - a holiday in your own country or at home.

The wonderful world of entertainment is not well represented on the list, although "simples" stands proud. Dent explained: "It appeared on the 'compare the meerkat' TV adverts for insurance and quickly become a catchphrase said by anyone to mean something very easy to achieve. It really seems to have captured the public's imagination in 2009."

If your nerves can stand it, here are some more of 2009's pick:

Epigenome - The pattern of chemical switches in human cell that indexes genetic information.

Freemium - Business model punting basic services for free in the hope that users will stump hard cash for additional bells and whistles.

Geoengineering/ecohacking - Major climate manipulation in an attempt to counter the effects of global warming.

Minute mentoring - "A system of advising aspiring professionals based on the format of speed-dating," according to the Telegraph. Nasty.

Paywall - Disagreeable demand for money in return for access to website.

Phantonym - A word that looks like it means one thing but actually means something else (= phantom + antonym). Eg, "fulsome", deployed by Obama in the sense of "full", whereas it "is now chiefly used in reference to excessive flattery".

Redact - Censor or obscure part of a text for legal, security or ▇▇▇ purposes.

Tag cloud - A visual depiction of user-generated tags, where the importance of a tag is denoted by font size or colour.

Unfriend/defriend - To remove someone from your friends list on a social networking site. "Unfriend" was voted the Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year.

Zombie bank - An effectively broke bank which is propped up by government money.

®

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* First recorded in 1855, the Guardian notes.

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