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To tweet or not to tweet? Tell the Truthiness.
TheAwl.com reported last week that the New York Times discourages its reporters from using “tweet” in their stories. According to NYT standards editor Phil Corbett, the buzzy verb/noun falls under the verboten category of “colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon.”
Though “tweet” is firmly entrenched in the pop lexicon, professional wordsmiths have been slower to embrace it as a descriptive tool. By comparison, Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness,” created as facetious fluff, was named Word of the Year for 2006 by no less than Merriam-Webster. [SIGNUP]
“Tweet” is not without its allies, however. The Associated Press includes the phrase — along with its myriad permutations — in its 2010 Stylebook. It’s one of the 42 new “Guidelines for Social Media.”
Quick aside: To print grammarians, such changes are as serious as a heart attack. When it was announced in April at the American Copy Editors Society’s conference in Philadelphia that AP had decided to move from “Web site” to “website,” the crowd broke into wild applause.
As a person who reveres words, I cringe at “tweet” and — pardon me while I gag — “retweet.” How can anyone take them seriously? Why squander 140 characters on technological expressions with no character?
And when the “tweets” contain life-and-death information, it’s even worse. The radical juxtaposition renders the content almost trivial.
To Boomers like me, “tweet” and “retweet” immediately bring to mind one image — that of the cartoon “Tweety bird” spitting out his catchphrase about his nemesis, Sylvester: “I thought I saw a pussycat.”
What really uncorks my gibberish gasket, though, is when a perfectly established English noun is used as a verb. “Friending,” anyone? Then there’s “unfriending” and “defriending.” Here’s a tip — try the three Ds: Ditch. Dump. Divorce.
Back to the Twitterverse (which is probably already a word, or it will soon become one). The obvious question is this: If not “tweet,” what?
The NYT’s Corbett suggests: a Twitter message, a Twitter update, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, use Twitter. Frankly, all my ideas are silly or X-rated. I am open to any and all suggestions, so try me.
GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for tvnewser.com. She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.