Monday, June 17, 2013


As I was doing my morning reading today, I found this article, which notes that "Tweet," referring to use of Twitter, has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Because I am not necessarily a trusting person, I followed up with a check of the online dictionary itself--and found the word, as well as a number of others that are sure to titillate the few schoolchildren who still actually use the OED rather than Wikipedia or

I know that there will be many people who will decry the addition as blasphemously tainting "pure" English (which has never actually existed, by the way).  Others, who perhaps view the OED as a gatekeeper of English, will think that the venerable volume has laid down its guardianship of "proper" lexical understandings.  In such views, we rapidly approach a linguistic cataclysm, an undermining of all that was once held dear and a release into anarchy.

Such people betray little understanding of how language works--or even of how the OED works.  "Ain't," which "ain't a word," has been in the OED for at least twenty-five years (I do not remember looking it up before I was five or so).  Other words, of more or less "propriety," have been included for as long or longer.  The dictionary takes--and has always taken--a descriptivist stance, reporting usage as it is observed rather than as it "should" be.

But for those who wish to preserve a "true" English, in all the glory of its traditional grammar, there is some hope.  For by consistent and widespread usage, it is possible to "correct" how the word is used--and it can be made a strong verb in the finest West Saxon tradition.  If the verb is "to Tweet," and in the present-tense we can say "I Tweet, You Tweet, He/She/It Tweets, We Tweet, You Tweet (in the plural), They Tweet," then in the past tense we can say "I Twit," and for compound tenses formed with the participle, we can offer "I had Twat," "I have Twat," and, it is to be hoped, "I will have Twat."

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