Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Twacking Twitter's Twinfluence on Votwabulary

I'm extremely new to Twitter (so new, in fact, that when I tweet a link to this blog entry, it likely won't show up in anyone's tweet stream), but I'm finding that it's a fascinating look into pop culture. Over the last two days, I've spent way too much time finding out about the Twitterverse and what people are doing in it.

I've noticed, as you probably have, that as people interact with Twitter and build new Twitter apps, a common occurrence is to name something by taking a "regular" word and changing it so that it begins with tw. Some of them, like words that already start with T, W, or TR, are obvious and flow right off the tongue. For example, Twackle, Twanslate (discontinued), Twetris, Twhirl, Twazzup, and Twipestry (though Twapestry would make more sense — was it already taken?). Others are made from words that start with other letters, but they still make sense starting with TW — perhaps it's because of the type of vowel sound in that first syllable or because the original word doesn't have many sound-alikes, so starting it with TW won't create any confusion. Some of these are Tweeteorology, Twootball, and Twurfer (for meatspace, not cyberspace, surfers).

Still others are just huge stretches to fit the idea into the now established form. These I hate: Twitspect (for respect), Twitsumé (for resumé; Twesumé, though still gross, is slightly better, no?), Twuoted (for quoted) and Twesents (for presents). The worst abuse, though a good account to follow if you like this sort of thing, is Twrivia. That's right, Twrivia, not the more obvious Twivia. (Again, I'll just assume that someone else snagged up Twivia earlier.)

And a few groups, like Dwigger (discontinued) and Qwitter, went another (and in my opinion more interesting) way.

I'm all for wordplay — I wouldn't maintain a blog like this if I weren't — but there is certainly a point at which witty and innovative turns into uncreative and tired. I think we've passed that point. From the way some of these are being discontinued for lack of use, I can only hope that, like the -licious suffix that was so popular a while back, the fad of twitterizing (or just twizing?) words will soon pass, and only the greats will remain.

But in spite of my poo-pooing, I do think this is a good sign. I think this shows that a lot of people (dare I hope most?) enjoy wordplay. People do seem to intrinsically understand that, from portmanteaux and mondegreens to spoonerisms and simply alliteration, the flexibility of the English language makes it more than just a means of communication; it can actually be entertainment.