One indication of a brand name's cultural penetration is its linguistic diversification. As soon as people started verbifying "Google" you knew the brand had legs--despite the tut-tutting of the trademark lawyers, who would prefer that we say "perform a Google search." Right, just as soon as I wipe my nose on this Kleenex® brand facial tissue.
Nintendo's Wii entered the magic circle almost immediately after it launched (Wiiality, Wiikend, Wiitard, and on and on). And now it seems that Twitter--the technology that asks a single question, "What are you doing?" and gets a stupefying volume of responses, most of them banal beyond belief, from users' cellphones--has joined the pantheon.
- Twittermob: An unruly and ragtag horde of people who descend on an ill-prepared location after a provocative Twitter message.
- Twittercal mass: A community that has achieved a critical mass of twitterers.
- Twitterpated: To be overwhelmed with Twitter messages.
Twitterrhea: The act of sending too many Twitter messages.
Twitter was developed last year by Obvious Corp., the San Francisco-based brainchild of Blogger founder Evan Williams. It currently has about 60,000 subscribers, none of whom can shut up about it. From the sidelines, where I intend to remain, Twitter strikes me as a symptom of our anxious, always-in-touch age, the era of helicoptering parents, texting teens, compulsively Blackberrying middle managers, and, yes, the bloggerati. E.M. Forster, for whom "Only connect" (Howards End, 1910) was a stirring cri de coeur, must be experiencing massive posthumous rue. "Never disconnect" is more like it.
However, I was amused by Fost's account of how Twitter got its name:
[Co-founder Biz*] Stone came up with the name Twitter, which he said evokes birds -- in his words, "short bursts of information, something trivial. Everyone is chirping, having a good time, and their phones even twitter."
Originally they called it "twttr," but when it leaked out and grew in popularity, Stone says they "bought the vowels" and the domain name www.twitter.com.
Smart investment. Vowels: good.
*Note curiously appropriate adult baby name.