We’re constantly coining new terms to describe how we tweet, how we read, and how we navigate our respective corners of the Internet. Sometimes, these in-jokes go mainstream and become part of the online lexicon, lasting long after the original context is forgotten. Those linguistic tics serve as a reminder of how “we” — or, at least, many of us — tweeted in 2013. Here are a few of them; please add any missing ones to the comments.
A new type of prepositional phrase, because character limits. Linguists have dubbed this phenomenon the prepositional because, and its versatility makes its widespread adoption “one of those distinctly of-the-Internet, by-the-Internet movements of language.” Basically, because lets you cut to the answer while skipping the explanation — because English.
A Twitter canoe is a conversation with more than three participants. The term was coined by Vulture’s Lindsey Weber in 2012, but the concept grew in popularity this year. Canoes often begin when someone inserts him- or herself into a conversation between two people. Others then feel free to join in, and there is soon little-to-no space for actual conversation as the thread accumulates more and more usernames. Participants are advised to “grab a paddle” to bring the canoe “ashore” before it “sinks.” Thousands have drowned in capsized Twitter canoes.
Close that tab
Close that tab is a warning to others to close a browser tab immediately upon opening a cringe-worthy blog post or article (see hateread). Its use was popularized earlier this year, and spawned the popular e-mail newsletter Today in Tabs, documenting the day’s opened and promptly closed tabs. Recognizing a tab is like defining pornography — you know it when you see it.
@darth is (was?) a pseudononymous Photoshop wizard with a dedicated following of fans, including many influential media personalities. His ability to whip up topical movie posters and altered photographs made him an indispensable resource for news-conscious followers in need of a quick laugh (or lede artwork). Darth went dark and locked his account after reporters started poking around trying to uncover his true identity. But he still lurks among us — he privately sent his signature custom Santa-hat avatars to several users after he disappeared, and the Guardian recently published a slideshow of NSA movie mockups under his byline.
Tweeting “TGIF” on a Wednesday is a not-so-subtle indication of how long the week feels. Another variation includes blaming a typo on a case of the Mondays when it is, in fact, a Thursday or Friday. Days-of-the-week jokes are the highest form of Twitter humor.
New York’s incoming mayor is already responsible for all the ills befalling this fair city. Inspired by the practice of blaming President Obama for everything that’s wrong with America, #deblasiosnewyork is a tongue-in-cheek way to document the changes under the new socialist regime. At some point, the hashtag broke loose from that context and became an all-purpose punch line.
Not often does an obscure three-year-old meme enjoy such a revival, but this year the doge meme was resurrected to become part of the Twitter linguistic ensemble. The trademark of doge is an image overlayed with a photo of a Shiba Inu dog and Comic Sans text expressing faux amazement at mundane nouns or adjectives. “Wow, such ___. Very ____, much ____.” It’s annoying and will hopefully fall into the dustbin of Internet history soon.
You know when your mom looks at you disapprovingly, tilts her head, looks down slightly, and says your first name in a tone an octave lower than her normal speaking voice? That’s what’s going on when people reply to your bad joke with your name.
Florida is the weirdest state in the union, a fact that the Twitter account @_FloridaMan is intent on proving day in and day out. The account, which began in February and now has 170,000 followers, tweets strange news items from across the Sunshine State on a regular basis, playing off the “Florida man” headline convention.
#followateen and #followanadult
#Followateen was a campaign by the olds on Twitter to follow a random teenager and document their life by subtweeting what the teens were tweeting about. It was all quite creepy, and collapsed after the teens discovered what was going on. They retaliated with #followanadult, which detailed their adopted adults’ mind-numbingly boring lives.
The hatefave occurs when someone favorites a tweet with the intention of ruffling the recipient’s feathers. “When someone is totally awful, hitting ‘favorite’ is the most perverse thing you can do.”
A hateread, as the name suggests, is an infuriating article or post that must be read in order to join in on the mockery that erupts on Twitter. Hundreds of blog posts are instantly born once hateread status has been achieved. Hatereads become ubiquitous through hatelinking, and are always tabs.
The account @Horse_ebooks was a much-loved spambot tweeting incoherent snippets of text which, when taken together, wove a random poetic thread through the timelines of its 200,000-plus followers. At least, that’s what everybody thought. Although @Horse_ebooks began as an automated spam account, in September two New York creative types revealed that they had taken over the account years before as an elaborate “art” project. The stunt was disclosed at an exhibit on the Lower East Side with The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean, of all people. @Horse_ebooks hasn’t tweeted since, and serves as a reminder that nothing on the Internet is real.
Scoop, if true
In August, the New York Post tacked on a strange addendum to a column: “Reader Don Reed has a scoop, if true.” The “scoop” posited that Eliot Spitzer was romantically involved with Huma Abedin. Despite Reader Don’s rock-solid sources, this was false. But the riff was fodder for a very bored New York political press corps, and became a perfect representation of a related trend in online media, where the viral spread of information is itself considered newsworthy, regardless of the underlying truth of the claims.
The Great Smarm vs. Snark War of 2013 began with a lengthy essay by Gawker’s Tom Scocca in which he defined smarm as “a kind of performance — an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance.” Contrast this with snark, the long-established tradition of reacting with cynicism and mockery to smarm in public discourse, much of which occurs on Twitter these days. Scocca’s treatise sparked an intellectual back-and-forth on the merits of the two styles of debate, eliciting responses from the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Maureen Dowd, among others. Many of those siding with Scocca did so with a distinct lack of self-awareness that they were the type of people he was condemning.
A subtweet is a tweet directed at a specific person without tagging the target’s username. This is almost always done passive-aggressively. Subtweeting is the online equivalent of talking behind someone’s back.
Teach the homeless to code
“Finding the unjustly homeless, and teaching them to code” was one of 2013’s most memorable hatereads. A software engineer set out to give a homeless man coding lessons and document the experiment on Medium. The idea was perceived as another example of insensitive condescension by the tech world, and spawned an offshoot of tongue-in-cheek coding-based recommendations for solving the world’s problems. To the homeless man’s credit, he completed his lessons, and recently released his first app. Still homeless, though.
Adding whoa before someone else’s tweet is a great way to steal their retweets. Or, less cynically, it’s useful for reemphasizing a tweet that your attention-starved followers might have missed. This year, “its usage overlapped with the advancing popularity of social media to create an unstoppable force of media momentum.” Some inexplicably spell it woah or (heaven forbid) whoah, but make no mistake: the correct usage is whoa.
“You won’t believe what happened next”
The young website Upworthy publishes heartwarming and inspiring stories meant to be shared on Facebook to show your friends what a great person you are. Upworthy accomplishes this by writing irresistible headlines with a tried-and-true format: a setup describing a unique or interesting situation, followed by a tease that entices the reader into clicking. (A typical example: “3 Out Of 4 Networks Aired a Moment of Silence For 9/11. You Won’t Believe What the 4th Network Did.”) The Upworthy style has been adopted by other outlets looking for clicks, and mocked by journalists jealous of the site’s traffic.