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Just call them tweets


Instagram Threads launched last night, and it’s the most commercial competitor to Twitter we’ve seen yet. While it will eventually tie into ActivityPub, the powerful decentralized network that Mastodon operates on, it’s just its own thing for now. And as with every microblogging platform that has popped up since Twitter began to shit the bed last year, one outstanding question has immediately presented itself:

What do we call these things?

No one seems to know! A number of people have been drawn to the word “post,” and post is a very accurate term. Your parents have heard of this word, and you can say it in polite company without having to explain yourself. But it’s also the name of one of these services, and frankly, it’s boring. It’s staid. Plus, apparently everyone on these new platforms is out to be an iconoclast, so on Bluesky they’re called “skeets” and Mastodon called them “toots” for years. (Though its developer tried to drop the term in November 2022.) In the early hours of Threads being open to the general public, people tried on “threet” and “tit” for size, as well as a whole slew of textile-related puns. (Too many people at The Verge insist we call them “zucks.”) These all seem like very bad ideas.

But you know what other word you can say in polite company without explanation? Tweet. Just say tweet! It has a definition in multiple dictionaries directly related to posting online. It’s a word that immediately connotes the specific kind of posting every microblog including Twitter has tended toward. Tweet is the perfect word to describe a quick short post published to a feed.

If you think “tweet” can only refer to Twitter, you’re wrong. Heck, Twitter didn’t even come up with the word!

In the early days of Twitter, they were just called “posts” or “updates.” Then, it was “twit” for a second. It wasn’t until Twitterific beta user Blaine Cook suggested “tweet” for Twitterific that we got the term we all use now. Twitterific’s developer, Craig Hockenberry, adopted “tweet” in 2007. Twitter itself didn’t adopt it until a year later.

In other words, tweet was arrived at naturally over the course of a couple of years. There was no weird push to find a name for the thing. It wasn’t decided via a committee of users (or a single trolling YouTuber) in the earliest days of the platform. Toots, skeets, threets, tits, whatever else — these are all emphatically stupid names developed with haste by people under duress. I say “duress” because anyone racing to adopt a new social media platform and quickly name its products could probably be doing better.

I understand if people are traumatized by the loss of Twitter. The site was once the best place to be messy or react to other people’s messiness. It was a town square for the terminally online. Then, it was purchased by a guy who keeps shitposting about how he could take Mark Zuckerberg in a fight. Its users have either logged off (I respect each and every one of you), or they’ve tried to seek out new homes at places like Bluesky, Mastodon, Hive, Post, Substack Notes, and even Tumblr.

And in the course of seeking out and establishing new homes online, they’ve tried to find something familiar. So they’re hunting for a pithy name to ascribe to microblog posts that isn’t post or tweet — but they just want to tweet. So we should just call them tweets. That’s the word we commonly use when discussing text-based microblogs. It’s worked for over a decade now, and I guarantee that, if you’re on Twitter and other platforms, you’ve already called posting your little blogs tweeting. I once very earnestly told a friend I’d be a second because I had to tweet something on my Tumblr. It’s a word that we all understand and have come to accept... even if it’s a bit twee.

And look: I know why you’re eager to distance yourself from Twitter. Most of us are in the same boat. Twitter is currently not a place many people want to associate with, unless they’re doing some weird performative stunt to ingratiate themselves with specific billionaires or political movements. It’s got a bad vibe, but the word tweet doesn’t need to!

We call tissue paper Kleenex and searching online googling, and while the company dislikes it, I guarantee you everyone you know calls all electronic paper E Ink. Genericizing trademarks is one of the ways we expand the bank of words we have at our disposal and find ways to quickly and succinctly communicate with our fellow humans. We shouldn’t just call them tweets because the alternatives are all excruciatingly terrible. We should call them tweets because it’s a service to the English language.

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