Aww, hmmm, ohh heyyy nooo omggg!

8 Jan
Tonight, Stacy Dickerman (@linguajinks) noticed a friend on Twitter use “DUMBBB”. A succession of observations followed:
  • “Just saw a friend tweet “dumb” as “DUMBBB” which now has me thinking about stylistic repetition of letters on Twitter, esp. letter choice.”
  • “In this case, word boundary seems to influence letter choice more than stressed phono-orthographic element. (cf. “DUMMMB” or “DUUUMB”)”
  • “Also interesting: “DUUUMB” looks really weird to me even though the vowel is probs the sound I’m most likely to lengthen in actual speech.”
  • “Three “U”s look totally fine in “DUUUMMMMMMBBBBBBB” however (U=3, M=6, B=7). Intriguing.”
One of the things I looked at in my dissertation was this kind of “expressive lengthening” (I sometimes call it “affective lengthening” but I’m pretty sure “expressive lengthening” is better).
The most straight-forward thing to track is three-repeated letters (because we have sooo many words like groove and flipped and erroneous that have legitimate double-letters).
So let me first focus on three-letters-or-more. In that case here are the frequencies of how many different words there are in my data:
Count of diff words
ooo+ 89
eee+ 52
mmm+ 16
sss+ 11
rrr+ 6
ppp+ 6
nnn+ 5
ttt+ 4
ggg+ 4
fff+ 2
ddd+ 2
(Total) 197

The most popular words are:

  • awww
  • aaa
  • hmmm
  • mmm
  • soo
  • ahhh
  • xxx (if you want to count this)
  • ohhh
  • oooh
  • soooo

As you can see, the only one of these that is derived from a “normal” word is sooo.

My guess is that expressive lengthening starts with expressive sound-words like aww and then moves over to shorter words of affirmation/negation/politeness: nooo, heyyy, yeahh, yesss, meee are all frequent.

Then there’s a further extension that I personally love. lmaoooloool, lolll, and omggg are also popular. This is awesome because speech and writing get disconnected even though expressive lengthening probably began as a way of indicating spoken length (“I want you to hear what I’ve written”). Some people do say lol aloud, but no one (to my knowledge) uses lmao or omg in speech without spelling them.

That omggg may have caught your attention because it sort of looks like someone is trying to lengthen a hard-g. You can’t lengthen a hard-g. Try it. You can repeat/stutter sounds like /g/, /t/, /b/, but you can’t hold them like a vowel or a nasal (m, n) or a sibilant (/s/, /z/).

But you get people doing this. My favorites are uppp, happpy, yuppp, nighttt, shittt, anddd, amazinggg.

I’ll close up now, but put the triples in context of doubles-we-know-are-doubles (so I’m not reporting ff or oo).

Count of diff words
ooo+ 89
hh+ 75
aa+ 59
eee+ 52
yy+ 42
ww+ 34
lll+ 16
mmm+ 16
xx+ 13
uu+ 13
ii+ 12
sss+ 11
kk+ 10
ppp+ 6
rrr+ 6
nnn+ 5
ttt+ 4
ggg+ 4
aa+/hh+ 3
fff+ 2
ddd+ 2
(Total) 474

PS–Forms like “DUUUMMMMMMBBBBBBB” are pretty uncommon. The main words that have multiple different letters repeated are aawww, ooohh, awwhh, aahh, ooohhh, aaww, hahhaa. There are probably more like wooohooo but I haven’t annotated those distinctively.



One Response to “Aww, hmmm, ohh heyyy nooo omggg!”


  1. Why Twitter Makes Us Want to Add Extra Letterssss - City Scene Live | City Scene Live - February 21, 2013

    […] You wrote a post about a friend who’d seen the word dumb tweeted as DUMBBB, which inspired you to take a look at which specific letters were added most frequently and why. Ooo was a big winner. Why do you think people pick the particular letters they do?  People love the o! I think it’s something about rounding your lips; it’s iconic of getting your mouth around something. Your lips, pursing forward, going out into the world … there’s something there.  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: