The English language is a curious fellow. Its unique depth, diversity and colour can be attributed to the tumultuous history of the British Isles. Countless invasions, migrations and social trends have thrown together disparate languages and dialects culminating in something beautiful.Globalisation and the age of electronic communication have fuelled the relatively recent explosion in the adoption of English, even if it now comes in such a variety of flavours. It is a living entity with a capacity to continuously renew itself. Presently the OED lists 250,000 words. Scrabble has never been so contentious.
With such a volume of words to choose from you might think that there must be no need to invent new ones. This didn’t prevent Douglas Adams & John Lloyd making hay with The Meaning Of Liff. There is an unparalleled joy for many of us in making up new words to suit (or not) the occasion.
One such occasion inviting of this creativity is the usage of Twitter. For the uninitiated (oh DO get with it) this platform enables you to broadcast messages to sufficiently interested people anywhere on the sole condition that you don’t exceed 140 characters. Such a simple proposition but nicely challenging – how do you communicate effectively when you are tied down in this way? How do you construct a short but meaningful message that targets the intended audience yet leaves some wriggle room for expression?
Twitter provides us with the simple joys of the #hashtag whereby any word/phrase preceded by # can be used to frame a message or filter for a subject. This week I stumbled upon the custom dictionary within my mobile phone and learned two things:
- When I type a hashtag in twitter it appears to get added to my custom dictionary
- The hashtags you use present an intriguing summary of your personal interests and proclivities.
And so a whole new offshoot of language is spawned – one that is entirely reflective of the author. At times the hashtag captures a wider discussion trend and on other occasions it carries no apparent understandable meaning but sits in isolation – a curious memento of some forgotten conversation. Some hashtags take on a life of their own as people adopt them to form little communities. It just goes to prove that language isn’t a monolith but a democracy – if enough people like a word or phrase it will embed itself in the vernacular, irrespective of “Queen’s English”.
Here’s what I found in my custom dictionary. I doubt that the Queen would be amused…
Perhaps this appears to be some journey of self-indulgence. And maybe it is. But I know plenty of people take real enjoyment in stretching the boundaries of the English language. Besides, this is my blog so I get to have the last word.