In the eternal-now and never-live-it-down that is the internet, you can see the interaction again and again. What’s more appropriate here than a spoiler alert is a patience-needed alert. Gibbs’ artless question doesn’t come until the 27-second mark of the 30-second #NCIS promo (I know! #forever), but it’s delivered so straight it’s #worththewait.

“Hashtag this could work, Boss.” Tony DiNozzo
“What’s a hashtag?” Leroy Gibbs

Leroy Gibbs, played by the ever-appealing #markharmon, is a little, umm, late to the #socialmedia game. I empathize. I, myself, first encountered hashtags on #Twitter only a few years ago. A helpful someone explained that they facilitated searches by topic. 

#fulldisclosure  Run-on-sentence alert.  Geezer-rant alert.  In the previous century I searched for topics using the Dewey Decimal System (as I learned it), or the Dewey Decimal Classification (as Wiki has it): “Dewey Decimal” for short, I guess just because pretty much everything does get shortened these days, with or without any compelling need—speed masquerading as efficiency, I suppose—but then someone decided that the short form in this case raises the spectre of confusion with “duodecimal,” which just might be the funniest thing I’ve seen on Wiki, and so to counter this possible confusion a disambiguation note on the Dewey Decimal Wiki page offers people a hyperlink to the Duodecimal Wiki page, which link I follow because I wonder whether someone could have their name associated with “duodecimal,” as Dewey does with “Decimal,” thinking that might prevent confusion, but it turns out not—there is not a name, I mean, not that having a name would not prevent confusion since I’m sure it would if only there were one—but, once at the duodecimal page, I see that it has what I can only call a reciprocal disambiguation note about Dewey Decimal and, you know, even though I admire the consistency I can’t help wondering whether Wiki editors should maybe have just left well enough alone because, really, how many people actually do ambiguate “Dewey Decimal” with “duodecimal,” and, of those, how many fail to recognize their error almost immediately upon starting to read the respective articles, because, although both articles use words like “numerals,” the Dewey Decimal article goes on to use words like “library” while the duodecimal one uses words like “subitizing.” Likely fewer than 12. Non-self-disambiguating people, I mean.).

Anyway. Where was I?

Ah, yes, topics, and appreciating hashtags as clear markers thereof, justly displacing a system that sorely deserves to be displaced, given its cavalier disregard for user ambiguation with a positional notation numeral system. I mean, Dewey had a first name, too, and if he was set on naming his system after himself (#shamelessselfpromotion – that’s for Dewey; #rarecorrectuseofreflexivepronoun – that’s for me, not Dewey, although he might have used reflexive pronouns correctly, I really couldn’t say), anyway, as I was saying, if he was set on having his name on his system then he could have used “Melvil Decimal,” thus provoking no confusion with any #numeralsystem (#positional, #notational, #whateveral) of which I am aware.

And this name would have stood the #testoftime in other ways, too, meeting the modern mania for abbreviations. Although Dewey’s given name was Melville, he went by Melvil. Just #forshort, I guess.

Dagnab it.  Hashtag this could have worked.

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Filed under Language and Communication

12 Responses to #hashtag

  1. Jim Robertson

    “#fulldisclosure Run-on-sentence alert. Geezer-rant alert. ”

    Wow, 274 word sentence !! I ran out of breath halfway through ☺☺

  2. Ted Spencer

    Wiki disambiguation pages – especially those wherein there is not even a spelling ambiguity – are a field of endeavour all to themselves. They crop up, usually unbidden, and leave me sparing a sympathetic thought for the poor lass trying to glean some understanding of English. My cherished OED (compact edition, cramming all 27,000 pages onto some 3,000 pages of microscopic print – microscope included) offers a full 12 pages on ‘see’. It goes downhill from there.
    Further, it’s hard to imagine anything requiring a #hashtag being able to deal reasonably with ‘disambiguation’. Then again, the OED would be a different beast had it been confined to tweets. A lesser beast. Considerably.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Ted – Searching Wiki, I’ve often been amazed at how many things bear the same name and same spelling, requiring (or, at least, benefiting from) a little disambiguation. “London” – the city or the author? If the city, in England or Ontario? And so on. I wonder where/how they draw the line. Before this one, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one based on close-to-homonym confusion. If they were to get into meaning (as with your example of the multiple personality that is “see”), Wiki editors would be sunk under the weight of it all.

  3. Discounting stream of consciousness writing (James Joyce and William Faulkner unstopped the right-brain ramblings of many thereafter) and streams of words that do not make sense, the record in English was held by Dickens, when I was in school, although I could not cite which of his novels contained the sentence, which certainly was not the opener to A Tale of Two Cities cited by Barnes and Noble. I am sure Dickens’s novels are where I learned to think with a complex verbosity that endears me to no one. The record for a reasonable, grammatical sentence appears to belong to Victor Hugo. Did you see the article on Wiki hoaxes in yesterday’s Toronto Star? It illuminates the editorial process that Wiki struggles to maintain, which does nothing to encourage one’s confidence in the nonetheless convenient compendium of fact-like assertions now accepted in some academic circles as a viable referent.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – I had not seen the article, but here’s the link for anyone interested. Thanks! Taking a quick look at the (apparent!) record(s), I fear I shall never challenge them. I’m unlikely to even contest them!

  4. Jim Taylor

    I’m awed. I’ve tried to write sentences like that one. Always, my plain-English hobgoblin takes over. I stick in a period. Or two. Maybe three.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – Or fourteen? It helps to speak them, and wave your hands around a bit at the same time.

  5. John Whitman

    John W

    P.S. I know there is some convention about using all caps in electronic forms of communication to express something, but I don’t know what that ‘something’ is. My use of all caps above just means, “I’m confused.”

    • Isabel Gibson

      John – As I was told it, all caps is like yelling at someone, but only if you know that! I have to say that I’ve been “on” Twitter for a few years and it confuses me, too. But I have gotten a little slicker with hashtags – when I remember to use them.