‘Tweeting’s like text messaging, isn’t it?’ said my husband confidently, though not, as usual, from any knowledge of the matter.
I find the register of language in tweets interesting. The tweeter in his own right must assume an easy tone, quite different from that of the niggling troll. As far as style goes, I was impressed by Jamie Reed, the Labour MP who made public his resignation from the shadow cabinet when Jeremy Corbyn had hardly finished his acceptance speech.
Mr Reed is fond of tweeting, and quite good at it. The little picture (tweeters it call an avatar) with his account shows Larry Sanders, the fictional chatshow host. Having resigned, Mr Reed later tweeted: ‘Forgot to put the bones in my shirt collars and now my train has broken down. What a day.’ This exemplifies a blithe insouciance useful in the face of trolls.
Trollery is not always subtle. ‘Good riddance you shithouse coward!’ tweeted Greg Morgan, ‘Everton fan’, to Mr Reed shortly after his resignation. Then someone called Jo Irvine ‘mother of two cats’, tweeted: ‘Great. Labour can get rid shite like you in the front bench & have a real opposition.’ I expect she meant on not in, but i and o are neighbours on the wee keyboard that tweeters so often use. To her Mr Reed replied: ‘Hi, Jo. Did you get the flowers?’
Rick Toomer, who holds a baby in his avatar, tweeted: ‘You’re proper rubbish, you are. A right wally. Idiot hole. Etc.’ To this Mr Reed tweeted: ‘I love “idiot hole”.’ As it happened, Mr Toomer seemed not to be as dim as he pretended, for he had earlier tweeted a photo of the Toomer baby holding a copy of the book That’s Not My Kitten, under which Papa Toomer tweeted: ‘Next in the popular series: That’s Not My Party.’
There was worse, but when someone called Andrew Thompson tweeted: ‘Impressive, isn’t it, how readily the Corbynistas offer the hand of friendship and reconciliation?’ Mr Reed rejoined: ‘It’s a little tight around the neck.’
I can’t say that I’d noticed Mr Reed before, but his tweets neatly embody a style of discourse that English has never been called upon to supply before.