Speak­ing in # HASH­TAG Twit­ter tool ev­ery­day speech

Makes its way into

SundayXtra - - ONCE OVER - By Katie Humphrey

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Heard in the high school hall­way: #. No, that’s not pro­nounced “pound” or “num­ber.” Try “hash­tag.”

The char­ac­ter so ubiq­ui­tous on the so­cial me­dia web­site Twit­ter, first as an or­ga­niz­ing tool and then as a way to add com­men­tary to short posts, has made the leap to ev­ery­day speech, es­pe­cially among teens.

“In the last six months, it’s got­ten re­ally pop­u­lar to speak in hash­tags,” said Me­gan Skelly, a se­nior at Lakeville North High School. “It’s kinda funny.” For ex­am­ple? “Let’s say some­body got mad at you for some­thing you aren’t sorry for,” said Mikayla Lon­er­gan, a Lakeville North sopho­more. “What­ever. Hash­tag, sorry not sorry.”

Her friends of­fer other ex­am­ples: Quote some­thing pro­found? “Hash­tag, truth.” Flirt­ing with that cute class­mate? “Hash­tag, I can’t date you if... ( in­sert silly qual­i­fier).”

Odd as it may sound, lin­guists say it’s noth­ing new.

“This is the kind of thing we do with lan­guage. We take things from one con­text and put it in an­other,” said Naomi Baron, au­thor of Al­ways On: Lan­guage in an On­line and Mo­bile World and a pro­fes­sor at Amer­i­can Univer­sity. “It’s a way of be­ing cute.”

Acronyms from in­stant mes­sag­ing and tex­ting build off ab­bre­vi­a­tions from pre­vi­ous eras.

In a sense, RSVP and AWOL paved the way for OMG and BFF. In the case of LOL, the mean­ing has changed over time from “lots of love” to “laugh out loud.” It’s a small leap from there to speak­ing in hash­tags.

While the short­ened phrases, writ­ten or spo­ken, may start with a niche of the pop­u­la­tion, it doesn’t take long for them to spread in a dig­i­tal age.

Baron points to col­leagues in their 50s, 60s and 70s who toss out BRB ( as in “be right back”).

“We do this be­cause we’re so­cial an­i­mals, as well as be­ing peo­ple who should act our age,” Baron said. “You hear these things, why not use them?”

As hash­tags be­come more com­monly known, the trendi­est make the jump to speech.

“You’d never re­ally say one that isn’t pop­u­lar, be­cause then peo­ple wouldn’t get it,” said Ken­dall Hu­ber, an­other Lakeville North sopho­more.

It’s also pos­si­ble to use hash­tag lingo with­out ut­ter­ing the word “hash­tag” it­self.

As in: “I can’t find a wire­less con­nec­tion... ( pause) First- world prob( lem).”

Trans­la­tion: Yes, I know I’m whin­ing about an in­con­ve­nience in a gen­er­ally well- off coun­try.

Or turn the school’s un­of­fi­cial motto into a hash­tag both typed and spo­ken. If you’re a Lakeville North stu­dent full of school pride: “Let’s go to the football game! (#) North or none!”

Use the hash­tag equiv­a­lent of air quotes — criss- cross the ex­tended in­dex and mid­dle fin­gers of both hands while mak­ing a quip — at your own risk.

“I’ve only seen that a cou­ple times,” Lon­er­gan said.

Students in teacher Ni­cole Kronzer’s English classes at Cham­plin Park High School have made a good- na­tured game of stump­ing her with hash­tag talk.

It started when she con­fessed con­fu­sion when a stu­dent quipped, “Hash­tag, YOLO.” The acro­nym means “you only live once” and the laugh­ing students told her it was “like so three months ago.”

“I think there’s ab­so­lutely no way an adult can keep up, and maybe we shouldn’t,” Kronzer said, ad­mit­ting she’s im­pressed by the clev­er­ness of the ever- chang­ing lingo.

She of­ten com­pares notes with her col­leagues.

“Lunchtime be­comes this teenageto- adult dic­tio­nary trans­la­tion time some­times,” Kronzer said.

En­ter­tained or an­noyed, some can’t help but won­der what all this dig­i­tal bab­ble bodes for gram­mar, spell­ing and proper speech.

Af­ter all, a 2009 study by the Pew In­ter­net & Amer­i­can Life Project found half of teens let in­for­mal lan­guage slip into their school writ­ing as­sign­ments. Thirty- eight per cent ad­mit­ted us­ing short­cuts learned through in­stant mes­sag­ing and email.

But Univer­sity of Min­nesota lin­guist Ana­toly Liber­man, who lumps Twit­ter and tex­ting in with all sorts of other slang, is not con­cerned.

“It’s alive to­day and dead to­mor­row,” he said. “It takes stronger ar­tillery to de­stroy English.”

— Star Tri­bune ( Min­neapo­lis)

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