After seven years of short 140-character bursts, memes and punchline hashtags, the term “tweet” has officially become a real word in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Tweet can now correctly be used as either a noun or a verb (as in “Send me a tweet” or “Let me tweet that”) and joins the 54 year-old slang term “to have a cow.”
This admission into the OED also includes some other social-media specific words, such as “follow” and “follower.” John Simpson, chief editor of the OED announced this news in a statement last week, saying: “The noun and verb tweet (in the social-networking sense) has just been added to the OED. This breaks at least one OED rule, namely that a new word needs to be current for ten years before consideration for inclusion. But it seems to be catching on.”
Of course, each of these words have been included in the OED long before Twitter ever became a thing and popular television shows began asking viewers to use specific hashtags when they Tweet about their program. Last week’s changes now add the social networking meanings to the words, following a large shift in definition since Twitter first appeared in 2006.
“There has been, for example, a threefold increase in instances of the word tweet between 2006 and 2007 (when Twitter began), and by 2012, this had increased to 50 times,” reads the official OED blog.
The new definitions of these words are as follows:
Tweet (noun): A posting made on the social media website Twitter:
“He started posting tweets via his cell phone to let his parents know he was safe.”
Tweet (verb): make a posting on the social media website Twitter:
“She talks about her own life, but she’s just as likely to tweet about budget cuts and Keynesian economics.”
Follow (verb): track (a person, group, organization, etc.) on a social media website or application:
“If you’ve been following me on Facebook recently you may have seen a bunch of different posts about surgery and back trouble.”
Follower (noun): someone who is tracking a particular person, group, organization, etc. on a social media website or application:
“She remains an immensely divisive figure, but she has a million followers on Facebook.”
The examples given in each of these definitions are perhaps the most entertaining aspect of these words entering the British dictionary. For all the tweets being posted online every second, anyone would be hard pressed to find a son tweeting his safety for his parents’ sake or someone effortlessly transitioning from tweets about their own life to something as recondite as Keynesian economics. The dictionary’s suggested uses for Facebook, however, make more sense.
It’s not just Twitter that is finally making it to the big time, either. Words which are more likely to be contained in Tweets are also making their way to the dictionary, though they’ve all met the ten-year requirement. For instance, “Geekery” is now a part of the OED as a noun and officially means: “obsessive interest in or enthusiasm for a subject, typically one of specialist or minority interest.”
“Dad dancing” also earns a spot as a colloquial noun and is defined as: “an awkward, unfashionable, or unrestrained style of dancing to pop music, as characteristically performed by middle-aged or older men.”