Today I used my first hashtag not on Twitter. It's a trend
I've been watching and mulling over for a while, and today, it just felt right.
After a walk across the park earlier, I posted the following as my Facebook status:
Just watched a squirrel in the park eating a Jaffa cake ...
naturally he twirled it around in his paws nibbling the edges first, leaving
the orangey bit in the middle to last! #thingsthatmakemesmile
It may not seem that earthshattering to you, and the content
of the post is fairly irrelevant, but it was quite a big linguistic step for
someone who thinks about language for a living!
I'm generally fairly pragmatic about language usage. It
seems to me that if something works for both parties in a communication, then
that's fine. It's only when it doesn't work for one side, usually the reader/listener,
that it becomes a problem, such as overly informal language in a job
application. I’m also pretty relaxed about new coinages. English has always
been full of synonyms, so just because there’s an existing way of saying
something, doesn't mean we don't "need" a new one; it’ll inevitably fill
a slightly new niche (in terms of register or connotation or whatever). I do
get bugged by all the fuss made about new coinages - they are not the be all and
end all of language and linguistic research! But I guess that's the same in any
field, it's always the sexy, quirky stuff that grabs the headlines rather than
the mundane or complicated developments, which are possibly more important, but
don't make such good copy.
In terms of my own language and communication, I'm not an
early adopter, I'll sit and wait and observe until I've got a feel for
something and figured out whether and how it’s relevant to me. It took me a
while to decide how I wanted to use social media like Facebook and Twitter, but
now both, to a greater or lesser extent, have settled into being part of my
communicative landscape. Facebook has certainly changed the way I use language.
The need to convey an idea in a concise, punchy way in a status update lends
itself to looser grammar and punctuation, and I'll happily scatter smilies and
random punctuation marks !?!*! (Although, to be fair, I think I've always used
punctuation that way in informal letters.) I do agonize over whether to let
those habits creep into other areas, like emails. It feels somehow lazy to use
a shorthand when you’ve got the space to express yourself more fully, but that’s
probably just a personal hang-up … communication should be easy and relaxed and
natural, shouldn’t it?
I’m not sure whether the topic-heading hashtag is going to
catch on as part of my communicative repertoire, but today it just seemed to
capture an idea perfectly, so I suspect it may stay. Think I’m probably too old
to pull off the spoken hashtag though … wouldn’t that be old-skool mutton
dressed up as linguistic lamb ;)
Labels: Facebook, hashtags, new words, Twitter