I flashed back to that moment on a recent early morning meeting. We were gathering as a team to review the event we had coming up for the day: who would do what, what the timeline was, what the client was expecting. We were all half-awake as we listened to the producer detail it out, each of focusing in on the things that concerned us, and tuning out those that didn't. But I think we all woke up as one and tipped our heads to the side as I did those many years ago when the woman said, "and when he gets on stage we'll bring up the picture of him with the twibbon."
In a room full of people with different technical skills, who travel far and wide, who interface with a myriad of different clients, I venture to say that 95% of us had no idea of what she was talking about. Now in some situations, depending on the group, if you hear a term or expression you're not familiar with, you just nod and keep going, and try and puzzle it out along the way from context or clues. But this particular gang had worked together enough times so as to be comfortable speaking our minds. I'm not sure who it was, but someone gave voice to what we were all thinking: "Wait a minute. What the hell is a twibbon?"
Turns out not to be a new thing if you're in the know. A portmanteau just like brunch (breakfast and lunch) or smog (smoke and fog), it's a mashup of the sound and meaning of two words, in this case Twitter and ribbon. It refers to a graphic element that is sort of a "bumper sticker" for your Twitter feed. Usually used to promote a brand or a cause, it adds some visual flair to your otherwise plain 280-character text dispatches. Some might see this term as a marvelous example of the vitality of the English language. Alternatively it's the devil's spawn, or as one of the gang said that morning, "like spork and skort, that is a word that shouldn't be allowed to exist."
Spoiler alert: if you are in that second camp you might not want to read on. Because it turns out there are numerous contemporary examples in that same vein. It's said that given enough monkeys, typewriters and time you could produce Shakespeare. Well, given enough cell phones and iPads and human thumb typing, you get a whole bunch of contractions and combinations that reflect contemporary situations in pithy utterances. And while they all make sense, you can argue whether they should be allowed to exist as well.
Ever send a text and keep checking your phone for the response? That's textpectation. Are you one of those people that can't sleep well at home but pass out as soon as you get into a vehicle? You might have carcolepsy. If you type away and keep making mistakes, you are obviously unkeyboardinated. If the chat you are having seems pointless it might actually be a nonversation. And those breathless texts that come one after another and are just a word or two long is someone typerventilating.
The English language is Darwinian: only the strong survive. And it's not a recent development: Shakespeare invented "congreeted" as a verb for when people exchange hellos, and it didn't exactly make the grade. While this continue? Will we be subjected to more? Will the language ever just stop changing? You might think those are legit queries. Then again, you might think bringing up these pointless and inane questions just makes me an askhole.
Marc Wollin of Bedford loves language. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.