What was the most popular word in 2009?

Twitter twi´ ter V.I. 1. to utter a succession of light chirping or tremulous sounds, as a bird.

“Twitter” was the most popular word in the English language in 2009, so claims the Global Language Monitor website. We know that tweeters tweet more than 3.7 gazillion times every day. If I remember my math right a gazillion is ten bazillion (Actual numbers may vary based on real statistics and not hyperbolic, conjectured ones).

The twitterverse is teaming with tweets. As tweet twaffic (that’s twitterspeak for tweet traffic) increases tweeters find new words to refer to varied aspects of their online prattle.

Here’s just a smattering of the new vocabulary created by these cyber scribes:

twoosh – a full 140-character tweet

twitterstream – a bunch of tweets in succession by one user

mistweet – a tweet one later wegwets making (Are you thinking of Elmer Fudd now too?)

drive-by tweet – a quick post between tasks at work

politweeter – a political tweeter

twaffic – Elmer would feel right at home with twitterspeak

tweetheart – someone very special with whom a tweeter tweets

twitectomy – unfollowing a friend

tweetaholism -tweeting to the point of addiction, for which a doctor would recommend the tweetaholic attend TA meetings regularly and follow a 12-tweet program as part of his or her tweetment. (This alliteration stuff is beginning to get on my nerves.)

Twitter execs probably derived their social network moniker from the verb form of twitter – to utter a succession of light, chirping or tremulous sounds. “To tweet” will become a common usage English verb sooner or later.

According to the dictionary pros over at the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language however, the word “twitter” and its root word, “twit” have disparaging connotations. “Twitter” can mean to taunt or ridicule or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults. It is a reproach or a taunt. It comes from the Old English word “against” and in Old High German twit meant “to punish.” In Britain “twit” means a stupid or foolish person. And MacMillan’s Online Dictionary says that in British English twitter means to talk a lot about unimportant things, and among its synonyms are “gossip,” “chatter.” “prattle,” and “babble.”

So, since the powers that be over at Twitter already call posts to their site “tweets,” it follows that the infinitive form of the eventual accepted verb form should be “to tweet.”

Problem is those birds already have their conjugation all locked up for “to tweet.”

I tweet, you tweet, he/sh/it/ tweets, we tweet, you tweet, they tweet. Yesterday I tweeted, you tweeted, he/she/it tweeted and so on through all the tenses. Regular.

Same thing for “to twitter.” Already taken.

We have some options here. We could keep the infinitive form of the verb spelling “to tweet,” just like it is. That would justify its duplication of the word for the sound birds make . Then we tell writers to consider the context of its use. But then, as now, twitter and its tweetings would always be associated with birds.  Do we really want that?

Another idea would be to make the infinitive form “to twitter,” but that’s already taken as well. Besides if we decided on “to twitter” as the infinitive form of the verb, would the conjugation go something like, I twit, you twit, he/she/it twits, we twit, you twit, they twit? Would the past tense sound like, I twitted, you twitted, he/she/it twitted, we twitted, you twitted, they twitted? Somehow that sounds a bit trashy to me. Leaves lots of room for students to misspell it on purpose just for a laugh.

Why not simply change the spelling from “tweet” to “t-w-e-a-t?”

I can think of four very good reasons to approve “to tweat” as the formal infinitive form of the verb we use to describe posting to Twitter’s social network:

1.  It would keep its onomatopoeic similarity to the sound birds make

2.  It would be creative and unique to the language

3.  Only a few old maid school teachers and a handful of grammar purist watchdogs would notice.

…and the very best reason I can think of to use “to tweat” as the infinitive form of the verb for inclusion in dictionaries all over the world and on the world-wide-web is…

4.  I thought of it and somebody might give me a suitcase full of cash or hire me as a language genius.

Yes, I think this is a tweamendous idea.

Note:  I used the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 4th edition as a reference for this article.

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