Elon Musk wants to turn tweets into ‘X’s’. But changing language is not quite so simple


Elon Musk could need to ship “tweet” again to the birds, however the ubiquitous time period for posting on the location he now calls X is right here to remain — not less than for now.

For one, the phrase continues to be plastered all around the web site previously often called Twitter. Write a put up, you continue to must press a blue button that claims “tweet” to publish it. To repost it, you continue to faucet “retweet.”

Nevertheless it’s greater than that.

With “tweets,” Twitter accomplished in just some years one thing few corporations have carried out in a lifetime: It turned a verb and implanted itself into the lexicon of America and the world. Upending that takes greater than a top-down declaration, even whether it is from the proprietor of Twitter-turned-X, who additionally occurs to be one of many world’s richest males.

“Language has at all times come from the those who apply it to a day-to-day foundation. And it may possibly’t be managed, it may possibly’t be created, it may possibly’t be morphed. You do not get to resolve it,” stated Nick Bilton, the creator of “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Cash, Energy, Friendship, and Betrayal” about Twitter’s origins.

Twitter did not begin out as Twitter. It was “twttr” — with out vowels, which was the development in 2006 when the platform launched and SMS texting was wildly common. The iPhone solely got here out in 2007.

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams “went at some point and bought the vowels, two vowels for basically $7,500 every,” when he purchased the URL for from a chook fanatic, Bilton stated.

In the beginning, individuals did not “tweet” — it was “I’ll twitter this,” Bilton recalled. However “twittered” would not roll off the tongue and “tweet” quickly took over, first within the Twitter workplace, then San Francisco, then in every single place.

We have been tweeting for well over a decade. World leaders, celebrities and athletes, dissidents in repressive regimes, propaganda trolls. intercourse employees and non secular icons, meme queens and precise queens. Former President Donald Trump’s incendiary use of the chook app rapidly punted “tweet” into near-constant headlines throughout his presidency. Individuals who by no means signed up for Twitter knew what the phrase meant.

For now, we nonetheless tweet, retweet and quote tweet, and generally — maybe not typically sufficient — delete tweets. Information websites embed tweets of their tales and TV applications scroll them. No different social community has a phrase for posting that is entered the vernacular like “tweet” — although Google did the identical for “googling.”

The Oxford English Dictionary added “tweet” in 2011. Merriam-Webster adopted in 2013. The Related Press Stylebook entered it in 2010.

“Stepping into the dictionary is a sign that persons are already utilizing it,” stated Jack Lynch, a Rutgers College English professor who research the historical past of language. “Dictionaries are often fairly tentative or cautious about letting new phrases in, particularly for brand spanking new phenomena, as a result of they do not need issues to be only a flash within the pan.”

As Twitter grew into a worldwide communications platform and struggled with misinformation, trolls and hate speech, its pleasant model picture remained. The blue chook icon evokes a smile, just like the Amazon up-turned-arrow smile — in distinction to the X that Musk has imposed.

Martin Grasser was two years out of artwork faculty when Twitter employed him for the emblem redesign in 2011. His wasn’t the primary chook emblem for Twitter, however it could be essentially the most enduring.

“They knew they needed a chook. So we weren’t beginning fully over, however they needed it to be on par with Apple and Nike. That was actually the transient,” he stated.

Twitter launched Grasser’s design in Could 2012; the corporate went public on Wall Road later that 12 months.

One early in-house design proven to Grasser regarded like “a flying goose with a tail. It regarded form of like a dragon. It was loopy,” he stated. Jack Dorsey, one other co-founder (and twice-CEO) needed one thing less complicated.

The chook represented a imaginative and prescient of Twitter as a pleasant place “the place everybody can weigh in and chat,” Grasser stated.

“The spherical type evokes a way of optimism, the chook even being form of turned upward, as corny as that sounds, I believe is completely different than a chook flying down or flat,” he stated. “We needed to offer it this concept of like hovering.″

The phrase “Twitter” itself is playful, as is “tweet.” This was no accident, Bilton stated.

Different names that floated because the platform began out included “Standing” and “Good friend Stalker.”

It was Noah Glass, one other co-founder who by no means fairly acquired the credit score he deserved for his function in hatching Twitter, who had the successful concept.

Glass, Bilton stated, “had been desirous about like heartbeats and feelings. He was going via a divorce and he actually went via the dictionary phrase by phrase till he got here throughout the phrase twitter. And he simply knew immediately that was it.”

“He was one of many 4 founders who had the emotional intelligence to have the ability to perceive that this was about connecting with people,” Bilton stated. “It was inviting, it was emotional. It was about connecting with people and your mates and your family members.”

Musk started his quest erasing Twitter’s company tradition and picture in favor of his personal imaginative and prescient as quickly as he took over the company in October 2022. He misplaced three-quarters of the corporate’s workers via firings, layoffs and voluntary departures, auctioned off furnishings and décor, and upended insurance policies on hate speech and misinformation. The rebranding to X was no shock.

Twitter’s rebranding is rooted in ambition that Musk started to pursue practically 1 / 4 century in the past after he bought his first startup, Zip2, to Compaq Laptop. He got down to create a one-stop digital store for finance known as — an “all the things” service that would supply financial institution accounts, course of funds, make loans and deal with investments.

He has not given up on the dream. Twitter is now X, falling in keeping with Musk’s different X-named manufacturers, SpaceX and Tesla’s Mannequin X. To not point out his younger son, whom he calls “X.”

His objective for X is to show it into an “all the things” app — for video, pictures, messaging, funds and different companies, though he has given few particulars. For now, continues to be, basically, even because the blue chook and different playful tidbits begin to disappear.

“There was once a saying inside Twitter that Twitter was the corporate that could not kill itself. I believe that also rings true, whether or not it is known as Twitter or X,” Bilton stated.

“I believe that it is form of turn out to be a cloth of society. And even Elon Musk could not have the ability to break it.”


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