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BW Businessworld

The Rule Of Hash-Tag Lingo

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Zomg! so you're telling me you're such a newb that you didn't know so much in the Twittersphere was totally NSFW?" Wondering how did such typos make it to these pages? Think again, and look up the latest Oxford dictionary — they are 100 per cent legit. New words such as crowdsourcing and copyleft are now emerging out of science and technology niches, into the mainstream. In Virtual Words, Jonathon Keats attempts to chronicle just that.

From well-known examples such as spam, the Great Firewall and tweets to guessable words such as mashup and in vitro meat and the obscure — memristor, bacn, steampunk and quibit, Keats explains the concepts and cultural contexts necessary to understand how the word came to be. So you are not left wondering what hit you when the young tweeple in the office yell out a victorious ‘w00t'! Keats even touches on Panglish (a basic future-world English) and Exopolitics (foreign affairs with alien races), but the bent is mainly on scientific and computing terms that are swarming the Internet landscape.
The book will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in language and the history of the Internet. Gems in the book are chapters around how the words in the twitter lexicon gained traction, and how the free software movement gave birth to ‘copyleft'. Keats asks all key questions: did the word come first, leading to a new line of thought, or did the new line of thought necessitate a word to describe it? Why do some words (such as blog) succeeded, while others (such as flog) fail?

But as with all books that cover the new technology in any way or form, this book is likely to get dated quickly. One would have appreciated a sister website where Keats could have posted even more nuggets.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 04-07-2011)