English Language

Happy Birthday, Twitter!

03.21.13 3:05 PM ET

On this 7th anniversary of Twitter, a column I wrote on the 5th anniversary remains relevant, I think.

5 yrs of Twitter?

I cn hrdly blv it.

Y it seems just ystrdy oped clmnsts wd go on & on.

Ponderously using 900 wds to make a pt that cd be made in a sentence or 2.

Then they discvrd that a 900 wd oped cd easily be reduced to a 400 wrd blogpost.

And now a 140 character Tweet.

The computr revn first compressed the machines that did the processing.

Now the revn has compressed time itself.

I have bn using Twitter for 14 months. @davidfrum.

I value Twitter highly.

It’s becom my personal newswire.

In an emgncy like the #earthquake +#tsunami+#meltdown in #Japan,

My various Twitter feeds delivers most information fastest.

(I subscribe to 366 feeds.)

Twitter hs becom my best advertisng medium for my website.

A pithy Tweet pulls readers to a good story like nothing else.

(Way better than Facebook, about wh don’t get me started – ugh.)

Twitter is also emerging as a fascinating new way of writing and talking.

I’ve engaged in fierce Twitter debates about issues like Bush and war crimes accusations

Unlike even on a blog, people on Twitter can watch debate occurring in real time

Between you & an interlocuter in Rio de Janeiro!

Every thought tightly compressed.

Twitter has its own style of humor:

Set up line followed by the punchline in the form of a hashtag.

EG: This coverage of a morning in the House of Reps by @daveweigel

Ted Poe on floor now celebrating 400th anniversary of King James Bible. #jobcreating #itsaprettygoodbiblethough

Some say Twitter will destroy the Englsh sentence, kill literature.


The newspaper column as we kno it is an artifact of telegraphy.

Prvious to mid-19th c., journalism was modeled on the personal letter.

See for example the famous “Spectator” of Addison & Steele.

Or else upon a sermon, as with Dr S Johnson’s Rambler and Idler.

Now take a look at a Walter Winchell column from the 1930s.

Individual sentences separated by three dots, unworried about overall form.

Just like a telegram.

“… Nothing recedes like success ….”

English prose adapts to new media.

Even too English poetry.

See Don Marquis’ Archy & Mehitabel.

Time time said old king tut

is something i ain t

got anything but

R we really sorry that TV abridged the 3 hr parliamentary oration

Into an 8 second clip?

How much more needed than, “Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall”?

My friend John Avlon, editor of new book on histry of news column

Reminds that Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story in 6 wds.

Baby Shoes. For Sale. Never Used.

Gd writing alwys followed rule: omit needless words.

Strunk & White.

Twitter enforces that rule brutally.

Don’t like Twitter? Don’t use it. And don’t worry:

New tech coming, will bring new change.

Nature of language.

In meantime, it’s the grammar of the age.

My wife & I are building a new house in Ont’s P. Edward Cty.

On v strict budget.

Architect directed to omit anything not absolutely essential.

House was pared to 1400 sq feet. 2 bdrooms. Glass & concrete.

We call it: “Twitter House.”

It’s how we live now.