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New York Times Bans Use of Word "Tweet" 426

Posted by timothy
from the seems-fair-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes "New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett has had enough of his journalists' sloppy writing. Their offense? Using the 'inherently silly' word 'tweet' 18 times in the last month. In an internal memo obtained by theawl.com, he orders his writers to use alternatives, such as '"use Twitter" ... or "a Twitter update."' He admits that ' ... new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don't want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words ...' After all, he points out, ' ... another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and "tweet" may fade into oblivion.' Of course, it is also possible that social media sites will elbow paleolithic media into oblivion, and Mr. Corbett will no longer have to worry about word use." While this sounds like it could as well be an Onion story, the memo is being widely reported.
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New York Times Bans Use of Word "Tweet"

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  • Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:53PM (#32543626)

    Someone had to do it.

    • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nick Fel (1320709) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:11PM (#32544586)
      Amen. I'm sick of the media fawning over Twitter. If I wanted to know what AnonymousPunter1983 thought, I'd go down the pub and ask my friends. Give me proper news and analysis, not regurgitated social network content.
      • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:31PM (#32544784)

        Agreed. I don't even use Twitter, but I do use LinkedIn, and some moron there just had to copy a Twitter post from one of her friends saying "taking the kids to [some event]". Who cares?

        • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jhoegl (638955) on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:33PM (#32545304)
          Kiddie watchers and robbers care. At least THEY "thought of the children".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by beh (4759) *

          Look at other languages, and you will see the kind of damage this does - take German for example:

          German has already taken on a lot of 'new' words from English, like 'computer' for example - though in this particular case, the German word 'Rechner' for it still survives. 'Server' though does not have a counterpart in our language. For a 'computer' I'm absolutely fine with that, as we didn't have this kind of machinery before its invention.
          But, in order to appeal more to younger Germans, a lot of cosmetics ha

    • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:23PM (#32544720)

      Now if only we could get them to ban reporting on twitter whatsoever, that would be real progress.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Antisyzygy (1495469)
      I am very happy this happened. Twitter is for narcissistic people to spout off meaningless snippets of their unimpressive lives. I thought people would have had enough of it from Facebook or Myspace, but apparently people need an even more frequent dose of bullshit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by amRadioHed (463061)

        Right on! RT @Antisyzgy: I am very happy this happened. Twitter is for narcissistic people to spout off meaningless snippets of their unimpressive lives. I thought people would have had enough of it from Facebook or Myspace, but apparently people need an even more frequent dose of bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alioth (221270)

      I just wish "blogosphere" would fall into disuse. It's a terrible word, and encapsulates everything wrong with buzzword-seeking-management speak and about breathlessly jumping on the most recent bandwagon.

  • by Junta (36770) on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:54PM (#32543638)

    I cringe every time I hear the word 'tweet'.

    • Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Concern (819622) on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:56PM (#32543668) Journal

      Sounds like good editorial policy to me.

      "Tweet" is almost as bad as "blogosphere."

      • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:56PM (#32544412) Homepage

        I know some people are opposed to every new word, but personally I think tweet is one of the better. It was obviously established as a word long before Twitter, at least as far back as 1942 [wikipedia.org]. The analogy between a short chirp and a short message works very well with very low probability of confusion, particularly since birds tend to do it all the time for no apparent reason and Twitter users... well, you get the idea. It works in Norwegian too, we have translated to tweet (birds) which is to "kvitre" and people use either that or "tvitre" to be more similar to English. I'm fairly sure this one is here to stay just as "to chat" or "to text", even if something else than Twitter becomes the way to do it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Concern (819622)

          If the word gains traction over time (instead of joining the graveyard of Internet Fad Words), it will gradually begin sounding more mature and ordinary. Then writers and editors will change their attitude towards it.

          But right now, the problem is not its construction or metaphorical appropriateness, but its newness, its faddishness, and most of all, the "feel" of it in English, which I can best describe as "twee." [merriam-webster.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh (216268)

          I completely disagree. "Tweet" is something that birds do, and is a perfectly fine term for that. However, we don't need to repurpose common words for new internet fads, and then use these in professional writing. It's just confusing to anyone who isn't knowledgeable about all the latest stupid fads, and worse, if someone reads an article from today 25 years from now, long after this fad has probably faded away just like many things during the dot-com era, they'll probably have no clue what the author is

          • Re:Agreed (Score:4, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 11, 2010 @08:42PM (#32545358)

            Chance has, I am archeologist of future. Traveled now for investigate your strange word usage {tweet | kleenex | slashdotted}. Also your convoluted sentences for {articles | compounds}.

            Thanks arguing for obviate my job, insensitive clod!

      • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sortius_nod (1080919) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:21PM (#32544692) Homepage

        It's amusing that geeks hate these terms, but the unwashed masses love them. The seem to think it makes themselves sound "edgy" or "with it", meanwhile, anyone who knows more than how to use the odd website and check email don't use them.

        I've never said "blogosphere" except to take the piss out of someone/something, and "tweet", well, I just tell people they have "twat" or are "twatting".

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Bing Tsher E (943915)

          I just try to work the word 'twit' into the conversation in place of 'tweet' whenever possible. You need to do so as if you didn't notice any difference.

          • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Friday June 11, 2010 @10:51PM (#32546186)

            I just try to work the word 'twit' into the conversation in place of 'tweet' whenever possible. You need to do so as if you didn't notice any difference.

            Is that because it's actually silly or because being annoyed with it makes you look like you're ahead of the internet curve?

            I don't mean to sound insulting, I just think geeks in particular like to grumble about things that are loved by the masses in order to seem above average. I'm not too proud to admit that I do that.

    • by vikstar (615372) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:03PM (#32543768) Journal

      Phil Corbett groks journalism.

    • I still don't get the point of badly re-implemented mobile IRC.

      Actually forget this post.

      This is just the old usage of twit.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:10PM (#32543860)

      I cringe every time I hear the word 'tweet'.

      I cringe everytime I hear english. It's the language of borrowed words, and I'm pretty sure the rules for it were invented a lot later, when people realized they might have to teach it. This is why when it comes to english, I prefer to be practical: If it's understandable by everyone involved, it is "good" language. If nobody understands it, it is "bad" language. Whether the words are on the approved list or not is pedantic and not useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "English doesn't borrow words from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them unconscious, and rifles through their pockets for loose grammar." Still Twitter is for twits that think we care about the minutiae of their lives.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by guyminuslife (1349809)

          I just spent ten minutes of my life tracking down the source of that unattributed quote.

          So if you have less free time than me (and if so, why are you on Slashdot?), it's misquoted, and it's this guy [wikipedia.org].

      • by Moridineas (213502) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:09PM (#32544564) Journal

        I cringe everytime I hear english. It's the language of borrowed words, and I'm pretty sure the rules for it were invented a lot later, when people realized they might have to teach it.

        Here, you're largely right. Many rules and normative practices WERE invented relatively recently. For instance, the rule to never split infinitives (hah) came into being because you don't split infinitives in Latin, and Latin is the perfect language (of course infinitives in Latin are a single word, so it's not wonder they can't be split!). I believe another example is the world "island" -- why the "s" ?? It's totally unpronounced? Well, the spelling was modified to look more like Franco-Latin as opposed to the english pronunciation...

        This is why when it comes to english, I prefer to be practical: If it's understandable by everyone involved, it is "good" language. If nobody understands it, it is "bad" language. Whether the words are on the approved list or not is pedantic and not useful.

        Here you're (imho) wrong. Your practical rule may make sense to you, but around the world there are billions of English speakers. It's far and away the most spoken language. I do NOT mean native speakers, I mean people who have learned some level of English. This is a critical distinction for things like "Spanglish," "Hinglish," "Engrish" and so on. What you and I may easily understand, somebody else may not. Hell, people from the backwoods of Minnesota and somebody from an isolated holler in Appalachia vs a inner-city Brooklynite already have a different enough starting base!

        The point of rules and standard words is to create some standard that millions of people can use and expect (or hope!) to be understood.

        This is not to say that languages cannot and should not evolve, just that I don't think your point is correct.

        On the actual topic of the article, I hate twitter and tweet, and am more than glad to see a big-name source of journalism axe the term twitter! I think it's a very fair point that in one, or two, or ten years there's an incredibly high chance people won't be using twitter. Not to mention, I see people around here complain about "Xeroxing" things all the time :-p Anyway, think about reading something about the internet from 1996 or so that might use terms... "After I opened Mozilla was altavistaing the topic, i got ICQed and knew something strange was going on"

        Would anybody today who DIDN'T use the Internet then (ie, the vast majority of people) understand what the heck those words meant?

    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:12PM (#32543888)

      Yeah. Not only that, but anyone (eg: the submitter) who thinks that Twitter is in any way pushing the NYT into obsolescence is insane. Twitter is inane and stupid, the NYT is actual, you know, news.

      Other variations on news may or may not be making the NYT obsolete, but Twitter has not a damn thing to do with it.

      • by Verunks (1000826) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:45PM (#32544280)

        Yeah. Not only that, but anyone (eg: the submitter) who thinks that Twitter is in any way pushing the NYT into obsolescence is insane. Twitter is inane and stupid, the NYT is actual, you know, news.

        Other variations on news may or may not be making the NYT obsolete, but Twitter has not a damn thing to do with it.

        I actually find twitter very useful at least in the way I use it, I do follow game developers twitters like http://twitter.com/OfficialBFBC2 [twitter.com] to get almost realtime news, and you can even ask something directly to them and get an answer sometimes, things like this were unthinkable just a few years ago
        of course this is way different than saying that twitter will replace NYT, but still it's not something "insane and stupid"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TomXP411 (860000)
      Heck, I'm still annoyed at "website". When did those two words merge?
  • He has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewitt@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:55PM (#32543650) Journal

    Imagine imagine yourself reading the NYT archive from the 1920s and finding "flivver" or "flapper". Now imagine someone in a hundred years reading the archive of the now-current NYT and finding "tweet". Same deal.

    He's may be too uptight* about it, but his idea is not completely without merit.

    [*: 40 years ago?]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by peacefinder (469349)

      Imagine imagine imagine me using preview!

      Imagine the ability to edit comments! Imagine the ability to post a second one immediately!

    • by onionman (975962)

      I agree! I've always felt like the NYT held a good balance between proper (American) English and pedantic grammar rules. Maybe other will follow. It would be nice if more media sources (both print and on-line) would follow the example set by The NYT, The New Yorker, and The Economist.

    • Tweet is a word, same as all the rest. and while it is more then possible that it will fade from style that does not mean that it should not be used.

      if you are looking back at really old news articles you most likely want to know what it was like back then and the lingo is part of that.

      Sure it makes it harder to understand, but no one reads 40 yo new papers to get cold hard facts.

      • Re:He has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:25PM (#32544030)
        "Tweet is a word"
        Tweet is what a bird does. Tweet does not, officially, mean "to submit a text string to twitter.com". The problem using "tweet" is that it's slang. Slang terms are unprofessional. You might as well allow NYT editors to write articles like "Popo caps a bitch after she tried to jack a 7-11" instead of "police shoot a woman after she attempted to rob a convenience store".

        This entire situation is not a matter of "do people understand what we're saying?" It's a matter of "Is this professional". Of course people know what the word "tweet" means, but the issue is that it's not professional.

        And responding to the assertion that twitter will force out the NYT: bullshit. Refusing to use slang terms in a professional publication does not ensure said publication's demise. In fact, it ensures exactly the opposite, that people will still regard the NYT as a professional publication with real writers, not some website where anyone can post literally anything without even the most basic fact checking.
        • by Brett Buck (811747) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:57PM (#32544426)

          .

          Slang terms are unprofessional. You might as well allow NYT editors to write articles like "Popo caps a bitch after she tried to jack a 7-11"

          Finally a Slashdot post I can understand!

        • Re:He has a point (Score:4, Insightful)

          by PCM2 (4486) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:04PM (#32544500) Homepage

          Slang terms are unprofessional. You might as well allow NYT editors to write articles like "Popo caps a bitch after she tried to jack a 7-11" instead of "police shoot a woman after she attempted to rob a convenience store".

          I think the problem there has less to do with professionalism than with the fact that the slang version is simply hard to understand. News writers favor plain, direct, comprehensible English. There is no benefit gained by obscuring your story with pointless colloquialisms.

        • by thenextstevejobs (1586847) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:07PM (#32544542)

          " You might as well allow NYT editors to write articles like "Popo caps a bitch after she tried to jack a 7-11"

          Are you listening NYT? I will buy print and web editions of your paper, as well as follow you on Twitter if this starts happening.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by TheABomb (180342)

          Tweet does not, officially, mean "to submit a text string to twitter.com".

          Oh, really? According to The Twitter Glossary [twitter.com],

          Tweet (verb)
          Tweet, Tweeting, Tweeted. The act of posting a message, often called a "Tweet", on Twitter. Find out how to post a Tweet.

          Tweet (noun)
          A message posted via Twitter containing 140 characters or fewer. Find out how to post a Tweet.

          If anyone has a right to define terms relating to Twitter, that'd be it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        Tweet is a word, same as all the rest. and while it is more then possible that it will fade from style that does not mean that it should not be used.

        It doesn't mean you have to use it every other sentence. This is particularly true if the subject of the story is Egyptian mummies, the campaigns of Napoleon, or a new composition by Philip Glass. Actually, on second thoughts it's probably OK for the latter.

    • by carlzum (832868)
      I have no argument if it's used in a quote or a reference to the term "tweet." But the NY Times wants its writers to avoid using slang in their own copy. It would be like going back to the 1960s archive and reading an article describing Kennedy's speech as "groovy." Even worse, "tweet" reinforces a fallacy that Twitter offers some novel, unique form of communicating.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      He is only going to use language that never looses meaning through time? yeah, good luck with that.

      It's also a disingenuous way to represent the current culture climate.

    • I'm on the fence about whether I approve or disapprove of using "Tweet" (though I dislike the word) by journalists. However, I think your examples of "flivver" and "flapper" are poor ones. "Flappers" have become rather iconic for the era, so I would not even blink at seeing that word pop up in old articles, especially regarding entertainment or popular culture.

      "Flivver", on the other hand, is far more obscure. However it's obviously survived time, even if to a lesser degree than "flapper."

      I predict that

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nebaz (453974)

      Even Mark Twain made this mistake once: 'The "advice" is concerning deportment on reaching the Gate which St. Peter is supposed to guard: Upon arrival do not speak to St. Peter until spoken to. ... Don't try to kodak him. Hell is full of people who have made that mistake.' (Emphasis mine). Kodak was used as a verb often back then, as they basically had a camera monopoly. Nowadays, we can understand the reference, but it still seems weird.

  • News flash (Score:2, Troll)

    by geekoid (135745)

    IF a new service sprung up tomorrow, everyone would STILL call them tweets.

    That will forever be the term.

    Typical old media school thinking

  • The New York Times isn't going anywhere very soon. Of the two, it's more likely that Twitter would be eclipsed by some new service and the word "tweet" would return to being a sound birds make.

    Certainly, for archival purposes, thinking about people in the future who might be reading news articles for research, "sent via Twitter" or something similar is more understandable than "tweeted" At least you could infer that Twitter was a messaging service from "sent via Twitter

    • by SomeJoel (1061138)

      The word "tweet" might lead future historians to believe people went around making bird noises.

      We could only hope that is what they infer. It is so much more elegant than the truth. "omg u r so ded lol"

    • by geekoid (135745)

      yes, becasue in the future people will be morons.

      Most like they will wonder why the NYT banned a common phrase.

  • by mike260 (224212) on Friday June 11, 2010 @05:59PM (#32543712)

    This obsession of tech companies with co-opting or coining their own verbs is pretty annoying. If you really must make words up, stick to proper nouns and quit polluting the rest of the namespace.

  • If some other service replaces Twitter, there's a good chance that using that service will also be referred to as "tweeting" since the term has become so well established, just as people refer to photocopying as "xeroxing" and to facial tissue as "kleenex". I don't care much for the word "tweet", but then I don't care much for Twitter either - its mostly a huge waste of time and an opportunity for obnoxious egotists to spam out details of their lives that hardly anyone should be interested in. But the word

  • by bonch (38532) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:01PM (#32543730)

    This doesn't sound like an Onion story to me. The Times is trying to establish a professional standard of writing, and "tweet" is a silly slang phrase that very well could be obsolete next year if Twitter is no longer as popular. The submitter's quip at the end is trying to turn this into a social media versus old media fight, but the Times is right on this one.

  • by WolfTheWerewolf (84066) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:01PM (#32543732)

    for those who "tweet" is "twat".

    Much more fitting.

  • by Hottie Parms (1364385) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:03PM (#32543762)
    The phrase "Google it" is used in common society as well, but who knows where the search engine giant will be 50 years from now?

    Yes, it's a dictionary word, but one nice thing about these news institutions is that they provide a central archive of history and major events. Tweet is far more obscure and should be considered no different. Stick to professional language, please.

    Of course, if somebody from the future looks back at newspapers from this time, they'll think that people like Lindsay Lohan were at the top of world-wide Monarchy....but that's beside the point.
  • He is right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bobcat7677 (561727) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:03PM (#32543770) Homepage
    It is sloppy journalism. Being able to read and understand what is written in a newspaper today 100 years from now when "twitter" is something of the distant past is just as important, if not more important then how readable it is to people today. Good journalism seeks to make what is written clear and understandable to anyone who has at least a "basic" understanding of the language. The lazy gits that piss and moan about having to make their wording clear need a lesson in what being a journalist is.
  • There is no story here. This is commonplace. Most organisations that deal in the written word maintain a style guide of prefered spellings, punctuation rules, and choices of words. This is business as usual.

  • But we favor established usage and ordinary words

    Unless it's one of them new fangled Interweb words, apparently. Like it or not, "tweet" is the established and ordinary term for posting something to twitter.

  • by kentrel (526003) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:06PM (#32543822) Journal
    The NYT isn't going anywhere. It may have to evolve to stay afloat, but it'll outlast Twitter for sure. Even if it didn't, it will be better archived for future generations than Twitter will ever be. Digital social media platforms barely last 5 years before their popularity starts to wane. They also have that signal to noise ratio that's a nightmare for any archive or researcher. They also certainly don't have any obligation for fact checking. Fake NYT news stories aside, at least you know a quote is probably a real quote, whether its taken out of context or not is another argument.

    Anyone of note still swapping news stories on Friendster? ICQ? Even myspace? Hey remember keyboard cat? Chat roulette?

    Twitter has some longevity and will be around for 10 years at least, but I'll give it 3 more until its replaced by a new, better, fad. Actually scratch better. Twitter is inferior to almost every communication medium out there. Lets say, simpler, and by luck, more popular.

    I was walking by some laptop users the other day and heard an ICQ "Incoming message" alarm. Lik

  • internet is anti-establishment, pro-change by its very core. if you cant join it, you lose it. dont worry - youll allow the word 'tweet' when it goes into merriam-webster in 1 to 2 years.
  • It's jargon associated with a product. If someone were drinking mountain dew in a story, would it be reported that they "did the dew"? When anchors read comments off facebook (an idiot practice, but that's beside the point) do they say "Sooperstaar380 facebooked that the policy 'is balls'"? No, they say that "Sumers took sips from a mountain dew as we discussed the project", or "Sooperstaar380 posted the following on his facebook page."
    Reporters have shown a tendency to get swept up in the enthusiasm surro
  • When a proper noun is used as a verb, should we still capitalize it? e.g. He Googles a lot of pornography. or What are you tweeting about?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      no.

      The revers is also true. Just ebcasue Microsoft chose a common word for their OS, doesn't mean you capatlize it in all cases.

      "I looked out of my window to see a bird I had heard tweeting."

  • by aapold (753705) on Friday June 11, 2010 @06:16PM (#32543934) Homepage Journal
    I'll bet people are tweeting this story even now....
  • "Tweet" will inevitably find its way into our official vernacular via its inclusion in the dictionary, following other such ridiculous nouns-turned-verbs like "Google", "Facebook", "friend", and "text".
  • Good on Mr. Corbett. I've held the same view since Twitter came along. "Tweet," "tweeting," "tweeted" - all completely ridiculous words conjured up for no good reason. For that matter, however, I consider Twitter itself to be completely fucking ridiculous, so perhaps my bias runs deeper than simple grammar.

    "... Of course, it is also possible that social media sites will elbow paleolithic media into oblivion, and Mr. Corbett will no longer have to worry about word use..."

    Nice snarky little jab there, but I find the notion of social networking sites supplanting established mass media and news to be as far-fetched as it is reprehensible. Maybe they work on a grassroots level as a bit of a 'complement' to traditional news, but other than that I see no indication whatsoever of them holding their own vis-à-vis peer review, integrity, fact-checking or social responsibility. If this does indeed happen (personally I believe the submitter was just grasping at straws), I'll hold even less hope for humanity in general than I already do, and that ain't much.
  • If I were one of those columnists, I'd find every excuse I could to quote Rockin' Robin: "Love to hear the robin go tweet, tweet, tweet!"
  • ' After all, he points out, ' ... another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and "tweet" may fade into oblivion.'

    ...and we must not use the word DIAL when referring to calling someone, because a push-button touch tone phone may come along and replace the phone dial, and the term "dialing a number" may fade into oblivion.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:56PM (#32545020) Homepage

    http://twitter.com/shitmydadsays [twitter.com]

    Everyone else can eat a bag of dicks. Twitter is, to me, a one-liner joke delivery mechanism.

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