Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Twitter's Influence on Language - 'Hashtag' and 'Hate-watching'

Technology and popular websites are a potent force in influencing our ever-shifting language. One such website is Twitter – a site that was created in the late noughties but by March 2011 had 140 million tweets posted daily, a statistic which I’m sure has increased in subsequent years.

By the beginning of 2013, ‘hashtag’ had already been propelled to a newly-adored status. It was no longer the obscure button on a phone keypad that no one ever used. At the start of 2013, ‘hashtag’ became the 2012 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society (ADS). In fact, ‘hashtag’ has started to escape from its original Twitter origin and use – rival site Facebook has also adopted the symbol, albeit controversially. Yet it is an undeniable fact that we are hash-tagging more than ever.

The ADS brings me onto the second term which this post is about, and that is the phrase ‘hate-watching’, which was also nominated by the ADS for the 2012 Word of the Year prize. The phrase is a little newer than hashtag and perhaps is more obscure. The ADS defines ‘hate-watching’ as ‘continuing to follow a television show despite having an aversion to it’. Certainly on Twitter, we have all seen tweets or have written our own about a programme being watched which we are finding boring, dull or simply perverse, yet we continue to watch it and complain, instead of being slightly more pro-active perhaps and putting something on we do like. It also links to having a ‘guilty pleasure’…enjoyment taken from something which, in the grand scheme of things, is arguably awful.

As with ‘hashtag’, ‘hate-watching’ created a handful of derivatives and verb compounds. For example, ‘hate-listening’, ‘hate-reading’ and ‘hate-doing’. Interestingly, the concept of hating something but persevering nonetheless existed far before we had a term for it.

So in summary, the popular use of social networking sites influences our language drastically.

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