‘Twitter’ Has Changed A Lot Since The 1700s

‘Twitter’ Has Changed A Lot Since The 1700s

Nowadays, we use words like “twitter” all the time to talk about our everyday social media habits. In the 1800s, they said “twitter” too, but it meant something a little different. So did “pin”. The times, they have a-changed.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which tracks trends like this over time, “twitter” wasn’t quite the same word it is today, but the relation is pretty obvious.

-One who twits; dial. a tale-bearer.

1854: “Don’t tell him anything, he’s a twitter.”
-A condition of twittering or tremulous excitement (from eager desire, fear, etc.); a state of agitation; a flutter, a tremble. Now chiefly dial.

1869: “[She] was in a twitter, partly of expectation, and partly..of fear.”
-A suppressed laugh, a titter; a fit of laughter. dial.

1736: “He is in a mighty twitter.”
-An act or the action of twittering, as a bird; light tremulous chirping. Also transf. a sound resembling this.

1871: “A mere swallow-twitter of inarticulate jargon.”

“Pin” on the other hand, as explained by John Camden Hotten’s 1874 The Slang Dictionary, meant something completely different. At least as slang.

“to put in the pin,” to refrain from drinking. From the ancient peg tankard, which was furnished with a row of pins, or pegs, to regulate the amount which each person was to drink. Drunken people are often requested to “put in the pin,” from some remote connexion between their unsteadiness and that of a carriage wheel which has lost its linch-pin. The popular cry, “put in the pin,” can have no connexion with the drinking pin or peg now, whatever it may originally have had. A merry pin, a roysterer

Of course, plenty of other words have changed as well, with many just picking up verb functionality, like “friend” and “favorite”. Still others, like “search”, mean the same basic thing, in a completely different context. Who knows what words might get bastardised by social media next, but with any luck someday you’ll be able regale your grandchildren with tales of when “sexts” were something exciting. [h/t Boing Boing]

Picture: Mariusz Szczygiel/Shutterstock