(Roughly) Daily

“Punctuation, is? fun!”*…

 

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Both ‘@’ and ‘#’ first crept into view during the Renaissance…

Old friend Keith Houston provides “A brief history of the # and the @.”

* Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

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As we hit the shift key, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Time Magazine acquired The Literary Digest— or its one remaining asset of value, its mailing list.  Founded by Isaac Kaufmann Funk in 1890, then published by his company, Funk & Wagnalls, The Literary Digest was an influential general interest publication the grew in influence (its circulation topped 1 million) with it election polling.  Starting in 1920, it conducted straw polls, all accurately predicting the outcomes of presidential elections…  until 1936, when its poll called the race a likely landslide victory for Governor Alfred Landon of Kansas.  In the event, of course, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was re-elected by a landslide– a result accurately predicted by a start-up polling company, George Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion.

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