The Atlantic Wire, “Why ‘To Tweet’ Is Lowercase But ‘To Google’ Is Not”

June 14, 2013

Rebecca Greenfield, “Why ‘To Tweet’ Is Lowercase But ‘To Google’ Is Not” (The Atlantic Wire, June 14, 2013)

“The simple answer is that ‘tweet’ isn’t a trademark, or at least it didn’t start as one,” linguist Ben Zimmer told The Atlantic Wire. A word like Google, because it doubles as both the proper noun and verb — Google the company and Google “to search” — has always had an official trademark. And in that case, the verb version keeps the style of its proper noun brand-name.

Unlike made-up nouns Google  or Xerox, Twitter takes its name from a real verb. “Twitter is a ‘suggestive name,’ as it is based on an actual word, twitter, imitative of a bird chirping,” Zimmer explained to the Wire. “And because of that suggestiveness, early adopter were encouraged to think of ‘tweet’ as a kindred term, since it too is an onomatopoetic term for a bird’s chirping.” Both tweet and Twitter as verbs remained acceptable for awhile. And while Twitter got the trademark from the get-go, tweet developed organically and only gained official US Patent and Trademark Office stamp of approval in 2011 — long after its colloquial usage began.

Read the rest here.

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