Overheard just now…

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…in Alta, Utah, where I'm conducting field research into how many words skiers have for snow, evidence of the polysemousness of Twitter:

Do you want to know what her Twitter is? [Apparently meaning 'her Twitter handle']

I have a Twitter. [By the same guy, apparently meaning 'a Twitter account']

Extra added bonus: I'm writing this on my iPad, and the autocorrect suggestion for polysemousness was polysemous nests, which for some reason I kinda like.


  1. mike said,

    March 12, 2018 @ 6:53 pm

    Are you referring to the phenomenon whereby people refer to "a Tumblr" or "Did you see her instagram" or "I saw it on his Facebook" or "I just posted a blog" or "there's a Wikipedia about that"? There is a tendency toward synecdochical references to social media:


  2. Neal Goldfarb said,

    March 12, 2018 @ 7:08 pm

    I didn't think I was referring to it when I wrote the post, but apparently I was, even if I didn't realize it. And looking at the post you link to, I see that I'm three years late to the party.

    You'd think that I'd have learned not to get excited when I make what I think is a new discovery., because it turns out not to be so new. Early in my Twitter career, I tweeted that I'd found an example of sentence-adverb "hopefully" from 1669. Stan Carey responded that Ammon Shea had quoted an example of it from 1648.

  3. Vance Maverick said,

    March 12, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

    'Polysemy' was not a suggestion?

  4. efnenu said,

    March 12, 2018 @ 8:12 pm

    I assume that "blog" for 'blog post' is deverbal.
    The Twitter examples don't seem that far apart to me ("Twitter" ~ 'Twitter profile'?), but there seems to be some bidirectionality issue with "my Facebook" vs. "his Facebook".

  5. Jenny Chu said,

    March 12, 2018 @ 11:03 pm

    Has there been a difference or a change in using "his Twitter" or "his Facebook" to mean a specific post vs a profile? Certainly using "his blog" to mean "his blog post" was established almost from the beginning.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Facebook in particular has changed its system over the years, such that celebrities and companies no longer have Profiles but Pages. So in 2008 someone might have said, "Look at Katy Perry's Facebook profile," and then been told a couple of years later that it should be "Look at Katy Perry's Facebook page," and decided to give up and just say, "Look at Katy Perry's Facebook."

  6. Keith said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 3:54 am

    Isn't it an abbreviation, in the same way as saying "gimme your email" instead of "please provide me with your email address"?

  7. Ursa Major said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 6:00 am

    From 1912 (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Fc0SAQAAMAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=%22my+telephone+is%22):

    "my telephone is 4-11-44; you ring me up"

  8. David L said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    There was a story in the Washington Post recently (I can't find a link right now) about the online reaction to the Parkland school shooting and how the teens were dealing with it. One of them said "I don't have a Facebook" — meaning that she had no account (because only the olds use Facebook now).

  9. Linda Seebach said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    At newspapers: In the publisher's office, "editorial" means the part of the enterprise that is journalism rather than business; in the newsroom, "editorial" means the part of journalism that is commentary rather than news; within the commentary department, "editorial" is the newspaper's institutional opinion (although (often the personal opinion of the publisher) rather than the personal opinions of people outside the institution.

  10. Harry said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 10:01 pm

    I rather like the idea of the field research referred to at the beginning of the article. The whole bit about Inuit having sooo many words for snow has always seemed to ignore the fact that English (even as spoken by an Australian) has a great number itself. Snow, snowflakes, wet snow, graupel, hail, sleet, slush, powder, sheet-ice and mogul come to mind without too much effort.

  11. Neal Goldfarb said,

    March 13, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

    Based on personal observation, over the past few days it's been mainly frozen granular—or maybe that stuff was hardpack—with patches that were more granular and therefore more easily skiable. Also death cookies on some runs.

  12. BZ said,

    March 15, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

    For some reason "his blog" for "his blog post" is an irrational peeve of mine ever since I first encountered it. Maybe it's because there is often genuine ambiguity of such uses (many people have their own blogs whereas there is only one Twitter, so in "his Twitter", "Twitter" must must mean something other than the social network in general)

  13. TIC said,

    March 16, 2018 @ 5:21 am

    In light of all this, I s'pose it's time that I finally give up on my stubborn insistence on always keying/saying "text message", "email message", "voicemail message", etc., rather than simply going with "text", "email" and "voicemail" (or even just "VM" or [gasp] "vm") like 90% of the peeps with whom I communicate… I oughta be able to make the transition… Heck, it took me only about a decade to drop the hyphens from "email" and "voicemail"!…

  14. Mark S said,

    March 17, 2018 @ 8:29 am

    For some years, I insisted on "microwave oven". I've given up, but I see instructions on frozen dinners still retain this usage.

  15. Kelly said,

    March 18, 2018 @ 7:17 pm

    @TLC: No offense, but your post is a strange combination of prescriptively-correct English and grammar mistakes, and leaves me very confused.

    Prescriptively correct: "with whom", use of commas outside of quotes

    Bad grammar: "s'pose", no comma after "email" in your third line, improper use of ellipses, improper use of brackets and parentheses (parentheses go inside of brackets), "peeps" (never use slang in formal writing and stop pretending you are young and hip)

  16. Matt said,

    March 19, 2018 @ 12:33 pm

    Not that TIC needs defending, but "with whom" is still alive in lotsa people's English, commas inside/outside of quotes are each prescriptively correct in different prescriptive systems, the Oxford comma (the one missing in your "no comma…") is only one style of two (the one I personally prefer, but whatever), and blog comments are not formal writing. Etc., etc. How exactly did TIC's comment confuse you? That's what I'm confused about.

  17. TIC said,

    March 20, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

    Thanks, Matt… I waited a day because I, too, am wondering just what Kelly found so confusing… And because I wanted a bit more assurance that this comment thread is otherwise dead…

    Nothing that Kelly pointed out was accidental… All of it, whether wise or not, was by conscious choice… In particular, the vast majority of my writing has long been informal (including my work emails)… And I've been automatically ending sentences with ellipses for so long now* that, on the rare occasion that I need to write something more formal, it's far quicker and easier to just type ellipses and then mass-replace them with periods… And, although I tend toward heavy (if not over-) punctuation and toward the Oxford comma, I intentionally omitted one in that sentence because it was already heavily punctuated and the comma wasn't necessary for clarity… And, admittedly, my use of the word "peeps" was an odd (and perhaps unwisely jarring) choice… It was a goofy attempt at self-indulgent humor; the introduction of a non-current slang term as if it — and I — weren't in fact so outdated… In retrospect, I prob'ly shoulda just gone with "of those"…

    Finally, Matt, I'm pleased to report that, although I was initially flummoxed by your use of "lotsa", I was ultimately able to power through and see the light and unbewilder myself!… Thanks again for the note of support…

    *If a had any shame, I'd be ashamed to admit that my now-full-blown ellipsis habit began, in my callow youth, as a conscious affectation resulting from a dalliance with the wily allures of Howard Stern's radio show… It cracked me up to no end when he would, in scoffingly reading from Larry King's showbiz/gossip(?) column, end each tidbit with "DOT DOT DOT" in a mock impression of the author's voice…

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