Let’s not congratulate Twitter on making up these horrible words

twitter scrabbleI love words. I guess that should be obvious coming from someone who writes for a living, but words are magic things for me, the tools we use to make sense of the world. The keys to order our lives, to describe and understand our experiences, to communicate. Words can validate or oppress; they can tease puzzling concepts into cogent theories or thrust the mundane into mystery. Words, ya’ll.

And one of the coolest parts of speaking and writing in English is how the language continually evolves; I’m all for neologisms, portmanteaus, slang, and silly acronyms making their way into our vocabularies.

But there has got to be a line. And I have identified that line. And the line between “creative invention of new words” and “sheer dumbassery” exists when you start smashing the word “Twitter” onto any other word and pretending like it’s anything other a lazy attempt to be clever.

Recent articles in Time and Slate discuss how Twitter is a jumping off point for new words; some are acceptable … most are not. What’s horrifying is that people might think we should adopt these new terms en masse – let’s run through the abominations, shall we?


“Twitterati” is supposed to describe elite Twitter users. If you need an explanation, it’s a mash-up of “Twitter” and “glitterati.” This particular word is especially irksome because the word “glitterati” is almost bad enough on its own. “Glitterati” is a play off the word “literati” which comes from Latin. If you were a “literati” in Latin, you were a man or woman of letters – someone who can read. Unfortunately, using the word “Twitterati” gives off the opposite impression. Using the word “Twitterati” also implies that you have your Klout score memorized and you’re still waiting for Rob Delaney to tweet you back (he’s never going to tweet you back).


If the “Twitterati” are Twitter’s upper class, “tweeple” describes normal users, the plebes (or “twebes”… just kidding, I will never endorse these wretched terms). “Tweeple” is stupid because it’s just so unnecessary and it really sounds like it comes from a transcript of a 50-year-old dorky politician’s attempt to roll with the cool kids: “What up, my tweeple? Let’s Internet!” Like a fanny pack or The Eagles, it will never be cool. #Sorrynotsorry to anyone who likes The Eagles. 

Also, “tweeple” sounds like sheeple, a term comparing humans to a mindless flock of sheep. Must we?


Gibberish on Twitter. I guess it’s kind of ironic that the word “Twibberish” is gibberish?


Whispering on Twitter. Not sure if people who use it know how Twitter works, that visual content does not have an aural component that would make whispering possible, or that they’ve coined possibly the worst Twitter portmanteau thus far. I guess subtweeting could be consider a Twitter whisper, but I refuse to let this justify “twshiper.” Also, just try to say it out loud. 


Time says this is a term but I’m not sure if I believe it. I’ve never, ever seen or heard this used (thankfully). Why not just say “delete?” I honestly didn’t think this was real but a quick Twitter search reveals that some hapless users have succumbed to the siren song of pointless portmanteaus.


Another word I did not think was real, but oh – according to Urban Dictionary, “twirting” is “the act of flirting via Twitter.” Too bad it sounds like either an unusual bodily function or something sexual I don’t know about yet. Also, too bad it’s NOT CLEVER.

That’s the real issues with these phrases, “twirting” included: They take zero wit. Slate’s Simon Akam does a good job describing how this specific type of word mash-up, called a neolexic portmanteau, just isn’t clever. They’re not puns. They’re two unlike words mushed into one. There’s no real benefit in slamming them together, except that some of them sound fun to say, like “chillax.” Chillax, while not particularly upsetting in the way these are, is fine – but it’s not wordplay. It’s just jamming two words together and calling it a day. And the Twitter-based portmanteus are stupid because they’re all really unnecessary. They all just mean “x on Twitter.” Twirting is flirting on Twitter. Twelete is delete on Twitter. Et cetera, et cetera. I don’t need to say “twet cetera” for my point to make sense.


This, I like. I could get behind “twisticuffs.” Let’s end on that positive note. 

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