Love & Sex

“Friend Zone” is Now in the Dictionary and We Feel Slighted

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The Oxford Online Dictionary didn't take our advice

If you’ve been tracking my astounding rise through the ranks of the literary intelligentsia, you may remember an article I wrote last year about retiring the term "friend zone" from our lexicon. I’m sure some of you are already feeling a little steamed up at the recollection of a web brawl you’ve tried to forget, but before you let your blood boil over, you should know that my suggestion was not taken seriously by the lexicon monarchs, i.e., the people who make dictionaries.

The folks over at Oxford University Press have recently added the term to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, giving undergrads everywhere free range to start all their essays with “The Oxford Dictionary defines the friend zone as…”

Here’s the official definition if you’re starting that paper now:

"n. informal. a situation in which a platonic relationship exists between two people, one of whom has an undeclared romantic or sexual interest in the other: I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys."

This sounds more like an "unrequited love" or a "crush," to me, because it fails to take into consideration the phrase’s current connotations, like the implication that someone is being denied something they deserved. At the risk of beating this horse—which, if it’s not dead yet, is definitely struggling through its final gasps—the friend zone places blame on the person who has chosen to "pursue other guys." Even if you use it self-deprecatingly, you’re saying something has gone wrong in the relationship, mostly due to the fact that you acted too “friend-ish” rather than like a potential sex mate. Obviously, miscommunications about where relationships are heading do happen, but applying a self-pitying term to the phenomenon isn’t helping anyone.    

Just because something is frequently used colloquially doesn’t warrant its inclusion in the dictionary, but you can’t blame Oxford for trying to stay relevant, a goal they made obvious by naming "GIF" 2012’s Word of the Year.  It’s really the word-themed version of the American Dream: you can start from nothing (like GIF did) and, given time to mature on PUA forums, find yourself snuggled in the pages of the OED for all eternity. The cool thing is, this really opens the doors for linguistic free-balling, allowing us to delve into the amorphous, elbow-crease of language. Who knows what new gems we’ll be throwing into daily chatter in the upcoming months? Here are my guesses:

Hooking-down: When you’re “hooking-up” with someone who is beneath you in looks or coolness. 

Twit-rom: When two people routinely flirt with, fav and RT each other on Twitter; a Twitter romance.

Sext-to-Sex: Start with sexting, get to sexing later.

Biden-ing your time: When you’re pursuing someone, and you make them nervous when you speak yet simultaneously in awe of you until they’re suddenly in love

Firevenge: When you like someone, but they don’t like you back, so you set their family’s barn on fire.