Just read a report by Tech Crunch alleging that the New York Times issued an official memo to its writers “asking them to severely cut down on the use of the word tweet outside of ornithological contexts.
So first of all I just have to ask, what the heck does “ornithological contexts” mean anyway? I attended college (I swear) but I can’t seem to place that God-awful phrase. Wait, let me Google it… Okay, so an ornithologist is someone who studies birds so yeah, no tweet references unless referencing bird-type-things, huh?
Times standards editor Phil Corbett, writer of the memo, argues that the word tweet is silly and is not yet standard English. He also claims that many people have no idea what the word means, particularly if they are not on Twitter.
REALLY? Regular people don’t know what “tweet” means?
At this point you just need to read the memo, it is hilarious: (Obtained by Tech Crunch. Major props to them for getting a copy.)
How About Chirp?
Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, tweet has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.
Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And tweet as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections. (Who counts this anyway?)
Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we dont want to seem paleolithic. (Yes, for the love of all that is holy they definitely don’t want to seem paleolithic!) But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.
One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many dont; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to tweets or tweeting. Someday, tweet may be as common as e-mail. (Really?! E-mail, Phil?) Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and tweet may fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesnt help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.) (And the New York Times is certainly anything but SILLY.)
Tweet may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But lets look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once youve established that Twitter is the medium, simply use say or write.
I can’t write anything more. Just too much to make fun of. I leave you with this “chirp” sent by @justinkownacki