Twitterati’s 17th century origins
For those who don’t know it, ‘Twitterati’ are the people who use micro-blogging service Twitter. With 190 million Twitterers generating some 95 million tweets per day, the Twitterati are a force – if only in terms of volume – to be reckoned with.
The term ‘Twitterati’ is already four years old, emerging from the fledgling cyber planet of Twitter not long after its launch in the summer of 2006.
Twitter itself couldn’t have been better baptised. Before it came to be known as a popular social network, the Oxford Dictionary bestowed the term – then primarily a verb – the following descriptions:
- A series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds;
- To talk rapidly in a trivial way;
- Idle or ignorant talk.
These meanings however were quickly lost to billions of eager tweets, and like so many terms which grow into existence on the internet, the definition of Twitterati soon followed Twitter into the abyss.
Literati + glitter + Twitter > Twitterati
Luckily for us, fantastic literary blog Podularity has featured the term in its One-Minute Word Histories series, with historical lexicographer Elizabeth Knowles. “Twitterati is a word which is completely of the 20th century,” she explains. “But actually, it has a considerable lineage”.
Knowles’ theory is that the 17th century term literati (well-read, educated people), which was combined with glitter in the 1950s to form glitterati (well-styled, showbiz people), was then merged with Twitter to present Twitterati. However, I think there is a missing link in this equation – in the form of digerati (People with expertise in IT). Digerati existed before Twitterati, and made up the very webusers that turned into Twitterers a couple of years ago.
From the linguistic planet of gate rape, terror babies and beliebers
Twitterati is just one of thousands of principally web-born words and phrases, and there are some uproarious examples floating around the web. Here are some of my favourites from the American Dialect Society’s ‘Words of the Year 2010’ nominations:
Fat-finger (verb): to mistype, as by accidentally striking more than one key on a keyboard/pad.
Belieber: a fan of popstar Justin Bieber (Bieber + believer).
Gate rape: pejorative term for invasive new airport pat-down procedure.
Terror baby: baby born to a terrorist family on US soil in order to establish citizenship.
Twihard: a fan of ‘Twilight’ books and movies.
The winner, on a more serious note, was App (noun, an abbreviated form of application, a software program for a computer or phone operating system). A sensible choice, considering the options…