Just a decade ago, the word “tweet” was easily defined as “a weak chirping sound, as of a young or small bird.” That may still be what it means when you’re reading a children’s book, but more savvy logophiles know that a tweet is more commonly used today to describe “a very short message posted on the Twitter Web site.”
That’s how Merriam-Webster is now defining it, along with the avian onomatopoeia. It can be used as both a noun and a verb, which means it can be used in conjugation tables for ESL learners: I tweet, you tweet, he/she tweets…
Tweet was just one of the new words included in this year’s selection of words that have made the grade. “Social media” was there too, defined as, “Forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).” It claims the word was first used in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg was still wandering the hallowed halls of Harvard, trying to get a date, and Myspace was still cutting edge.
Perhaps in tribute to Wikipedia, the portmanetau “crowdsourcing” made the cut as well. It is defined as, “The practice of obtaining information from a large group of people who contribute online.” Though Wikipedia was well established by the time Facebook got started, the term “crowdsourcing” is considerably younger. It was first used by Jeff Howe in a Wired Magazine article from June 2006.
Surprisingly (or not), the U.S. is a bit behind the UK. While Merriam-Webster first included “tweet” this year, it seems that the Concise Oxford English Dictionary already includes the word “retweet.” It also includes the term “sexting,” which is still ignored by Merriam-Webster, raising the question: Which country is more prurient and which is more prudish?
Then again, despite the antics of their politicians, Americans may simply favor platonic relationships. After all, Merriam-Webster also added the word “bromance.” There is evidence for that, too. A poll just released by Cosmopolitan magazine has found that, one in five women now say that Facebook is better than sex. No wonder bromances are so popular.