running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

New York Times leaves the Twitterverse

Friday, 11 June 2010

The New York Times announced yesterday in a memo by its standards editor Phil Corbett that it is advising its writers to abstain from all variants of the noun-verb "twitter."

The newspaper likes to avoid the use of colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon in its articles, and “tweet” - as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on twitter — is all three.

Corbett was obviously alarmed at the eighteen instances of variants on "tweet" that appeared in various NYT articles during May.

At the other end of the spectrum, Information Architects, the influential Japanese Web Agency, has just launched a new Web Trends map - Cosmic 140 - the 140 most influential people on twitter, sorted by #name #handle #category #influence #activity. The map also details when they started tweeting and what they first said :

Cosmic 140

These 140 Twitterati are arranged like stars on a celestial chart. I'm not sure just how useful Cosmic 140 is, but it's certainly clever, and laced with zeitgeist.

In the world of Visual Communication, Designers, particularly those working in Advertising and Branding, tend to rely on the way English is a language prone to evolution and fad. This keeps their work contemporary and appealing whatever audience they are tasked with communicating to.

Which is why terms like download, email, text, web, spam, hacking, blogging, podcast and twitter have all entered common parlance during the last 15 years or so. They are part of our culture, they describe what we do on a daily basis, they make sense because we need them, and they are here to stay. Until the next technologies come along and buzzwords are created to describe them.

As William S. Burroughs was fond of pointing out, language is a virus.

Which is why Mr Corbett is a bit of a twit. Can they print that?