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Posted on 02.09.2012

Twitter: What language are they speaking?

About a week ago, my 84-year old father asked me to give him a primer on Twitter.  He’s not looking to weigh in on the next hot trending topic, but he’s noticed the increasing prevalence of Twitter in news coverage.  From presidential candidates to Superbowl scores to the announcement of the Oscar nominations, newscasters and producers can’t seem to resist citing the latest buzz on Twitter. So while many millions of television viewers are exposed to what may have been recently tweeted about Newt #Gingrich or from the New York @Giants, many do not actually understand what is being said. Twitter has its own language – and an etymology that evolves on a daily basis. Like an extreme case study in the mechanics of the Web 2.0, Twitter is constantly being formed and reformed – by its users.  Many folks use Twitter like some of us use eye contact or polite conversation; they are on Twitter 24/7 and are slick with the lexicon of the medium.  Others, like my Dad, just want to listen in on the conversation and have a better understanding of what’s being said. If you’re looking to eavesdrop on whatever is being discussed in the Twittersphere, below is the brief primer I gave my Dad. The @ symbol is used as part of a person’s Twitter name (also called a “handle” for those of us that remember the hay day of the Citizen’s Band radio).  When a person opens a Twitter account, she creates a unique name so that others can find her in the Twittersphere (I’m @plorin – follow me!) Many people create Twitter handles that are reflective of their regular name, such as @MichelleObama or @WaltDisneyWorld.  Others may try to make an advertising statement with their handle, such as @bestpizza or @ilovebradpitt.  If you see a Twitter handle in a tweet, it is likely the name of the tweeter, or the name of the intended recipient or subject of the tweet. Placing a hashtag (#) before a word in a tweet marks a key word or topic in the message. Words that follow a hashtag are more readily found in a search on Twitter. So if you want others to know what you think about #TheVoice or #SilentMovie, be sure to include the hashtag in your tweet. RT in a tweet simply means the message has been copied, or ReTweeted, from another source.  It’s a form a flattery, and an appropriate attribution to the creator of a tweeted message. Strange strings of letters, dots and slashes, such as bit.ly/8ZrV9S or tinyurl.com/7xmzcqn , are likely website addresses that have been shortened (so as to not take too much space in a tweet’s 140-character maximum).  Click on them if you want to learn more about the tweet’s topic. While there are many other odd little tweaks and secret handshakes on Twitter, understanding these four common terms and shortcuts can help you decipher the dialogue – and better understand what’s being discussed on the nightly news. Once you get comfortable with the language, jump in and send us a message @LovellCom! Photo By: Master Isolated Images

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