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Originally posted on Interesting Literature:
The word ‘tweet’ – meaning to post a message or item of information on Twitter – has this month (June 2013) been added to the Oxford English Dictionary or OED. In honour of this occasion, we thought we’d offer some interesting facts about terms associated with Twitter, and the stories surrounding their earlier uses. Many of them have a literary connection.
The word ‘tweet’ – as a verb – is first attested in 1851. It may have been in use earlier than this, but the OED cites 1851 as the earliest known date of the verb’s use. The word features in a poem by George Meredith, novelist and poet, author of Victorian sonnet sequence Modern Love. (Meredith was also the author of the poem ‘The Lark Ascending’, which would later inspire Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose his celebrated piece of music.)
The poem, one of Meredith’s ‘Pastorals’, contains the lines: ‘While the little bird upon the leafless branches / Tweets to its mate a tiny loving note.’ Oddly fitting, since many modern-day tweets posted in praise of people, events, or things, might be described as ‘tiny loving notes’ sent out into the world by those ‘little birds’, Twitter users. (Equally fittingly, when you first sign up for Twitter your ‘avatar’ or profile picture is an egg, while the ‘home’ page of the site is represented by a birdhouse.)