[ by Charles Cameron — when the definite article is simply too definitive — and how about The Levant? ]
In my ongoing, if pretty much one-sided, convo with Marc Andreessen [1, 2, 3], I’ve been arguing for Twitter to offer a format for DoubleTweeting. People do it anyway, because it’s a neat way of raising questions or making points — but it would be nice to have a format that made it both easy and elegant, and thus expand the practice. Today gave us another example of what I’ll call, for want of a better term, DoubleTweeting in the Wild:
The Vox is dumb. pic.twitter.com/KdK368wWeo
— Jimmy (@JimmyPrinceton) February 18, 2015
That was tweeted on February 18, 2015.
I’d actually like to suggest that Vox isn’t dumb, at least as far as these two tweets are concerned — it’s learning.
Jimmy Princeton had to dig back to April 2014 to find Ezra Klein‘s use of “the Ukraine”
The three kinds of war facing the Ukraine: http://t.co/IJTQjX8zL0
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) April 24, 2014
and he then compares it unfavorably with Max Fisher ten months later, ie two days ago, on February 18, 2015 — the same day on which he posted his own DoubleTweet:
Hi Jeb — here is why it’s actually really important to call the country “Ukraine” and not “the Ukraine” http://t.co/oy0smsQZ8J
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) February 18, 2015
Even more to the point, Fisher’s post on the importance of the distinction between “The Ukraine” and “Ukraine” was posted on Vox on September 3rd, 2014, so they hadn’t even issued their own warning at the time Klain tweeted his needless “The”.
Cheryl Rofer had to teach me the distinction, and language being language, I still can’t promise I’ll get it right every time — old habits die hard. But for the record, here are the first paras of Fisher’s Vox “card” giving the reason for the change in name…
It used to be “the Ukraine,” but after breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991 the name changed to just “Ukraine.” That distinction actually turns out to be pretty important for understanding the current crisis.
Ukraine has a very long history of being subjugated by outside powers, and a very short history of national independence. That may actually be why the country became known as “the Ukraine,” which many historians think meant “the borderland” in the language of ancient Slavs (it may also mean “the homeland,” a theory that Ukrainian nationalists understandably prefer). In other words, it may have been called “the” because it was considered more of a geographic region than an independent country, and one defined by its in-between-ness.
Having said all that, I’m still grateful to Jimmy Princeton for illustrating the sort of use a DoubleTweet can be put to. And I’ll try to get my own wording right in future, now I’m reminded I haven’t always done so in the past.