Sunday, January 3, 2010


     Once, so very long ago on the time clock of the young, “tweet” was the language of the bird Tweety,  the cute Warner Brothers Looney Tunes character. Now “tweet” is shorthand posting on “Twitter,” a social networking and micro-blogging site. Tweety Bird caught our attention with high-pitched sound, and modern tweets are supposed to grab you in their abbreviated look, much like the reduced wording of an ancient telegram.
There should be no problem with that since any way of communicating, especially one as popular as tweeting, is democratizing for humanity and should be encouraged. Spreading information, though it often may be loaded with gossip, rumor, falsehood and prejudice, is still enlightening. And it can be self-correcting, as one tweet leads to another, including setting the record if not straight, then straighter.

My only  reservation is that any language shorthand also forces the brain to think that way, too, so while focus on any particular subject may be intense, the attention span is not, and it’s on to the next thought all too quickly. Any thought not fully developed with deep rooting will wither as a plant without sustenance. Result: We may all find ourselves in a twitter for lack of complete tweeting.

Or, just as disappointing, more words and phrases will be lost to what was once well-developed languages. Just look at the advertisements in the 1930s’ U.S. magazines. The copy often carried 100-200 words plus the images. Now, it’s a few grab-your-attention phrases for people on the run. The English language, as must be happening as well to other tongues across the globe, is being truncated. And with that comes  loss of universal expression and communication.

An example: I was in a supermarket early one recent morning and went to the bakery section to get a donut, maybe a pastry, etc., from the self-serve racks. The baker was late, and so the day’s fresh goodies were not yet placed. I stood about until a young woman asked me what I wanted. “When will the baked goods come out?” I asked. She went silent for about five long seconds and then answered quizzically, “You mean the donuts?” I said, “Yeah, the donuts, the pastries, the crumb buns, the flavored croissants, the Danish, all the baked goods.” She retorted, “What kinda donuts you want? I’ll get them from the back.” Three minutes later, I had a powdered jelly and a crumb bun in hand. One of the two was a donut. I did not tell her which.

I hope I did not put the poor thing in a twitter.  Her experience with an old guy probably pushed  her to post a few tweets.

If twittering with tweets is to continue, as it will, if we are to follow the dictionary definition of twittering, which is “to tremble with nervous agitation or excitement,” in this age of shorthand, pulsating language, I hope we at least find abbreviations for descriptive phrasing, such as baked goods.

Otherwise, as with a fine painting where the viewer fails to see the subtlety of color or when a reader of fiction does not hear the author’s unique, layered voice, we will end up living in a world of skimming.

And you know skimming barely scratches the surface. It’s no way to live life.

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