In Praise of Hash

Last year in a New Yorker blog item, Susan Orleans explored some of the joys of the #hashtag, that funny and versatile little Twitter symbol, which can help you track public discussion of a subject—or make fun of yourself and others. Over the weekend, I was at the Online News Association’s annual conference, #ONA11, where some discussed the philosophical gap between what the old guard believes to be objective and proper journalistic behavior (just the facts, ma’am) and what the newer journos believe to be permissible room for attitude -- attitude that can help build audience. I must be immature for my age, because my heart is with the latter. I nodded (and tweeted) as one panelist said that he wouldn’t be able to survive his job “if I couldn’t snark all day on Twitter.”

Why yes, that’s a good thing. Yesterday Ben Zimmer told us in a wonderful little piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe that the Twitter #hashtag has resurrected irony, self-deprecation, and verbal playfulness in public discussion. Among other things, he says:

Enter Twitter. Only five years old, the microblogging service has, since its early days, impressed linguists with its rapid-fire innovation.

Admired by linguists! Ha! I knew I wasn’t just procrastinating on Tweetdeck! #yeahright #youwish #okaybacktoworknow

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