The Tweet Alternative
Help Slate find better words for tweet, like, and other social-media jargon.
The Gray Lady will no longer tweet. That's according to the New York Times' standards editor Phil Corbett, who is pleading with writers to avoid using the word in their copy whenever possible, invoking the paper's disdain for "colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon." There are tweet partisans: The Associated Press gave tweet its blessing in the most recent edition of its style guide, and the American Dialect Society listed tweet as its "word of the year" for 2009 (though that label is less an honorific than a reflection of widespread use).
Still, the New York Times isn't alone in its discomfort. Many of us cringe when forced to use the cutesy word and its accompanying word-jam nomenclature: twitterverse, tweeple, tweeting, tweetup, retweet, twitterati, detweet, dweet. Perhaps it's the word's similarity to the irksome twee and its connotations that makes us loathe it so. Twitter isn't the only social-media powerhouse to abuse the English language: Facebook's recent transition to "like" has made it hard to express anger or sadness—surely the more than 12,000 people who have "liked" a People.com article about Gary Coleman's death weren't actually pleased to hear about his demise.
But so far, we seem short on worthy alternatives to tweet and like. The Times' standards editor suggests replacing tweet with chirp. He also proposes the following "deft, English alternatives":
use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you've established that Twitter is the medium, simply use "say" or "write."
But what Corbett views as "deft" substitutes seem more clunky and evasive than graceful, more self-conscious write-around than superior diction. Surely there is a third way: words that can succinctly, cleverly, and uncloyingly capture the meaning of tweet without making their utterer wince.
So, Slate readers, help us coin some new Twitter and Facebook terminology. What should a single Twitter message be called? How should we recommend fan pages, articles, videos, and other Web media to our friends on Facebook? What social-media verb, noun, or adjective do you most loathe, and which are you actually somewhat fond of? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail us at email@example.com. We'll round up your thoughts and proposals in a follow-up article on Slate next week.
Bonus challenge: Let's help out the New York Times writers who must now avoid the word tweet. What's the longest sentence a person could write that plausibly gets around using the word tweet?
Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project from Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that covers emerging technologies and their implications for society and policy.