Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

"I friended him." = 940 hits
"I befriended him." = 628 hits

A story this morning on NPR about Facebook got me wondering whether "friend" as a transitive verb was poised to replace the word that has long done its job: "befriend."

Looks like it is.

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6 comments:

Christy said...

I use "friend" as a verb specifically in reference to adding someone as a friend in a virtual space (facebook, myspace, etc.). "Befriend" is still the proper verb for friendships formed in real life. Do you think "friend" is now being used to refer to real life friend-making or are these two verbs with two entirely different applications?

June Casagrande said...

Good point! I have not yet seen anyone use "to friend" outside of a Facebook- or MySpace-type context.

So, with that added perspective, it'll be interesting to see whether "to friend" stays in that context or encroaches on "to befriend's" already receding turf.

Joel said...

I'm pretty sure it has and it certainly will. It's likely to have shades of irony in it and reflect mockingly on the shallowness/awkwardness/imbalance of some social networking "friend"ships. At least that's the way I'm going to use it, though I might also, I confess, be inclined to use it when a more sincere sentiment and/or commitment is intended.

I wish I could remember if I've already used "friend" as a verb apart from FB et al. But I know that I will, now that y'all have laid down the gauntlet. ;-)

In my head, "friend"ing in the more-or-less "real" world would probably involve business cards or, yaknow, something like that. "I friended a bunch of vendors at that conference. My junk mail folder is gonna be full for a couple of months."

June Casagrande said...

"'friend'ing in the more-or-less "real" world would probably involve business cards or, yaknow, something like that. 'I friended a bunch of vendors at that conference.'"

You know, I bet you're right. Because how often do we need a word for the moment when we acquired our real, meaningful friendships? I can talk about important friends for days on end without ever getting around to mentioning how the friendship happened. So you're right: If "to friend" extends beyond social networking, I bet it'll be used in a way that suggests acquisition.

Blackwell said...

That's exactly it with "friend." We know when something happened, because it gets documented. It *is* artificial (I get annoyed when random people at work do it to me, but then I in turn do it to complete strangers!), and so it does feel different to use than "befriend."

However, I'm not sure "befriend" will die out because of "friend" taking its place, but I do agree it isn't very common, maybe because of exactly what June pointed out: how often do you start a meaningful friendship on purpose at a specific moment and how often does it just happen?

June Casagrande said...

This has gotten more interesting than I saw comin'. It has all kinds of implications about not just language but also technology's effects on human relationships. Velly intelesting ...

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