twitter tweet

Headline in the Inquirer (U.K.):

Airport Twidiot gets banged up

The story is about a young man who got into a lot of trouble for tweeting a prank bomb threat from Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield (that’s its official name). Hard to believe that there are people who haven’t heard that the authorities don’t take at all well to prank bomb threats, but there it is.

The portmanteau twidiot (twitter + idiot) is what caught Victor Steinbok’s eye and caused him to pass the story on to me. I’ll comment on it in a moment. But first a few notes on other usages in the story.

Start with banged up, which probably will be opaque to American readers. Here’s OED2 on the item:

trans. Brit. slang (orig. Criminals’ slang). to bang up: to lock up, imprison, detain in custody; to confine (a prisoner) to a cell; (in extended use) to confine to a particular place. Usu. in pass.

(First cite from 1950.)

Then, later in the story:

It seems that one of his followers [on Twitter] did not have the same sense of humour as Paul, however, as they were so shocked that they rang up the plod. The result? A few days later the coppers showed up at his office and promptly felt his collar under the Terrorism Act.

From the context, it’s clear that “the plod” here means ‘the police’. More British slang. From the March 2009 draft revision of the OED‘s plod entry:

Brit. slang. More fully P.C. Plod. A policeman, a police officer, esp. a police constable. Also: the police. Freq. humorous or mildly derogatory.

The first cite, presumably the source of the item, is the title of a 1971 play (P.C. Plod) by a musical comedy group. The next cite is from 1977.

Then there’s feel the collar of in “the coppers showed up at his office and promptly felt his collar under the Terrorism Act”. In context, this is pretty clearly ‘arrest, nick’. I don’t find it in the OED, but you can google up examples from U.K. sources — not necessarily colloquial in tone, as in the following, from the site of Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C.:

… that [arresting Quaddafi] will be a distant future: the struggle for global justice goes on. It has managed to put Karadzic and Charles Taylor in the dock but it will be many years before it can feel the collar of the likes of Colonel Qaddafi, whose immunity depends not on his strength, but on the weakness of international law and those who have a duty to enforce it.

On to twidiot. There is no end of playful formations based on twitter and tweet (some sources have Twitter, the way the Twitter folks would like it, some have twitter; I’m lower-casing throughout). The discussion that follows is emphatically not intended as an inventory of these formations, just a sampling of types.

First, there are compounds with twitter as their first element. Some of them fall right in with known types of “snowclonelet composites“: twitter fag, twitter whore. Others are possible candidates for new types: twitter wank, twitter zombie.

A few, like twitterdom, have twitter playfully combined with a more or less ordinary derivational affix. Some have twitter plus a suffixal “combining form” (in suffixal position, but functioning like a compound element): twittercide and twittersphere, for instance.

Suffixal combining forms develop by “liberating” some part of an existing word (-aholic, as in chocaholic, and for that matter, tweetaholic). Very often, the existing word is a portmanteau word, so that it can be unclear whether we’re looking at a freshly minted portmanteau word or a word with a suffixal combining form: twitterati, for instance (Michael Quinion treats -(er)ati as a suffixal combining form).

Portmanteaus often have an overlap, a stretch (phonological, orthographic, or both) shared by the two contributing elements, as in the set twitterary, twitterate, twitterature, and in twitterbate and twitterection. The overlap can be very short, as in twitterage (the second element is the word rage), twittergasm, and twitterhea (the second element is a shortened version of diarrhea). Some portmanteaus have no overlap: twitteranity (the second element is apparently a shortened version of Christianity) and twitter-palooza.

Twidiot is one of those portmanteaus with a very short overlap: just the /ɪ/ (orthographic i) from a severely shortened version of twitter and the initial of idiot.

9 Responses to “twitter tweet”

  1. kamper Says:

    At least in my southern Ontario english, “twitter” would be indistinguishable from “twidder” so that extends the overlap a bit. Although I guess that probably wouldn’t be the case in the UK.

  2. mollymooly Says:

    PC Plod is a bumbling policeman character in the “Noddy” books written in the 50s by Enid Blyton. Wikipedia says he was originally called Mr. Plod, “after the nickname for policemen in Victorian era”.

    “Twidiot” has a two-segment overlap for alveolar flappers. Of whom there are not so many in Blighty.

  3. Michael Quinion Says:

    Though “-(er)ati” is in my affixes list (originally in the book Ologies & Isms from Oxford), I don’t treat it as a fully-established combining form. I say in the item “It is as yet uncertain whether a genuinely new word-forming element has been created, or whether word coiners are working by analogy. Its vogue may end before its status becomes obvious.” I don’t think anything has changed since I wrote that nearly a decade ago, except that the form shows no signs of disappearing.

  4. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To mollymooly: fascinating antecedents for plod. I’ll pass them on to the OED folks.

  5. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Kamper and mollymooly: the (American) flapping in Twitter presents an interesting issue in the analysis of phonological identity. Flapping results in a segmental *phonetic* identity of the intervocalic consonants, but the question is whether that counts as phonological identity for speakers, who might well think of the intervocalic consonants as /t/ and /d/, despite their identical realizations.

  6. mae Says:

    Was the twidiot a relative of Tweetledum and Tweetledee?

  7. Ian Preston Says:

    I find the OED has the following under collar:

    … to feel (someone’s) collar: to arrest; freq. pass., to have one’s collar felt (Criminals’ slang).

    The first cite is from 1950:

    P. TEMPEST Lag’s Lexicon 49 To ‘get your collar felt (or touched)’ is to be arrested or stopped by the police.

    [(amz) Ah! I expected it to be under feel, but I should have looked under collar as well. Many thanks.]

  8. arnoldzwicky Says:

    More on plod:

    Jesse Sheidlower notes that Enid Blyton is indeed in the OED, but in the etymology rather than the main entry: “In sense 2 [the ‘police’ sense] also with allusion to Mr Plod the Policeman in Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories for children (see NODDY n.5).”

    And Ben Zimmer reports that New Partridge (The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English) refers to Blyton, saying that the
    character’s name was “possibly a pun on ‘plodding the beat’ or, simply
    ‘to plod’ (to proceed tediously).”

    Ben adds a more recent literary point of reference: Inspector Plodder, the
    invented policeman in Sleuth, the play/movie.

    Finally, Jesse, Ben, and I see no evidence for the claim that Mr Plod was a nickname for a policeman in the Victorian era. Cites, we need cites.

  9. Inventory of libfix postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] 9. POST elements in general, mentioning –cide, -sphere, -aholic, -(er)ati AZBlog, 1/19/10: twitter tweet (link) […]

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