“Retweet!”

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This week, listening in on a heated high school discussion, I heard someone shout out “Retweet” from across the room. I wasn’t sure what was going on. Was our conversation being tweeted about?

Later, in another class, while gathering lists of words (using pencil and paper) for our semester-by-semester slang tracking, the word “retweet” appeared on someone’s list.

I had to ask, “Do people actually say that?”

Sure.  It means “I agree with you,” or “I feel the same way,” or “I TOTALLY AGREE!”

These kids had some pin-pointed expertise:  I couldn’t even find this definition of “retweet” on Urban Dictionary, where the only definitions offered are the literally literal

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and the facetious (?)

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Yuck!

So… here’s the scoop:  Certain teenagers say “retweet!” out loud—in the same place other people might say, “thumbs up!” “here-here!” “right on!” or even “I concur.”

Why so many expressions for “I agree”?

Slang expressions tend to proliferate around taboo topics like sex and drugs, or insulting remarks about men, women, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality.  We as a species seem to have an unlimited capacity to make new words for the skeezy, forbidden, or embarrassing. And it makes sense that we would want to be more creative (or secretive) about how we talk about them.

Less obvious:  Our species-wide love of agreement and new ways to do it!

Just as ways to talk about being “wasted/lit/turnt/smashed/etc” proliferate like crazy, so do ways of expressing the fact that “I feel the same way.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 9.32.51 AM Look around you and you will see all kinds of evidence that people like to agree!

Many of these, just like many other new words, are boring and sheep-like (think thumbs ups, viral videos, proliferations of exclamation points!!!). But others tip toward the profound, or at least show that how we agree may be a powerful glue holding us together.

Call and Response is one of the most moving forms of “retweet!” Listen to all the buzzing agreement, for example, during Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have been to the Mountaintop” speech:

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MLK: “Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech”

Audience: “YEAH!”

MLK: Somewhere I read of the freedom of press”

Audience: YEAH!

MLK:  Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest FOR right.

Audience:  YEAH! ((Clapping and screaming in agreement))

Enthusiastic agreement happens when reading too. Look through a book that someone appreciated:  Underlining!  Highlighting!  Post it notes!lovingpostits

I happily notice when students show up with books like this in class.  So many post-it notes can’t simply be superficial display.  This student found a connection with Mr. Bakhtin.

Teachers also recognize when there is a buzz of agreement in a class.  When faces light up, I’ll sometimes stop and ask, “You’re smiling.  Do you agree?” Yes—and the discussion gets better.

Some teachers even use silent hand-signs for agreement.  At this website about “talk moves,” one teacher illustrates how she embeds this agreement sign in her discussions, apparently with some success:

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Comments on this video also enthusiastically agree that the “I agree” sign improves classroom discussions:

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Piling on, readers of the comments that agree with the “I agree” sign also receive “I found this helpful” agreement award symbols.Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.32.01 AM

People seem driven to express agreement and we keep finding new ways to do it.

As the “talk moves” teacher explains, the “I agree” sign is a way to “encourage discourse in the classroom.”  Agreement signals involvement. Humans learn and develop through interaction. But we also want to keep it real and display our unique identities: Different groups, different media, different attitudes, different styles require different agreement expressions.  I may agree with much of class discussion—but  I doubt I’ll ever say “retweet!” to express that agreement. I have my ways.  You probably have yours.  And the conversation continues…

How do you express agreement?  When, where and why? What are the effects?  Please comment here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Retweet! and Other I-Agree Signals

  1. In my classroom we had the thumb-and-pinky-extended-move-hand-in-between-gesturer-and-addressee sign but it was “connection” rather than “I agree.” So it did things like “I had that experience too” in addition to “I concur with the propositional content of what you are uttering.” It was great!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I use my index finger to concur, as I thought everyone did . However I have found that is more of a Mexican thing, maybe inspired by https://www.riffsy.com/view/riff/3593263/El-Chavo-Eso-Eso-Eso-GIF, or is just a vestige of something that I do not know what it is. Also, I define myself as a retweeter in my own tweeting space, but sometimes it goes beyond the agreement or endorsement. It is space where I try to bounce ideas, some that I do not like, but I feel people should be aware of (e.g., Trump’s craziness, Mexican corruption, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In many parts of West Africa and across many typologically distinct languages there is what some linguists call a “verbal gesture” of clicking your throat with your mouth closed to indicate agreement or backchannel. I’ve been trying to dig up a video of it but to no avail — hard to because I don’t know of any naturally occurring word in English, French or Manding to describe it, but I hear it and sometimes try to do it myself all of the time! Here’s a boring academic article that touches on the subject while attributing them specifically to Wolof: http://www.lingref.com/cpp/acal/44/paper3130.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ditto!
    Which, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, has this interesting history: (1620s) Tuscan dialectal ditto “(in) the said (month or year),” literary Italian detto, past participle of dire “to say,” from Latin dicere (see diction). Originally used in Italian to avoid repetition of month names in a series of dates; generalized meaning of “same as above” first recorded in English 1670s.

    I remember duplicated copies being referred to by teachers as “dittos”. Fascinating language habit. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

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