“And the Canaanites slew the Amirites, because they had done evil in the name of linguistic brevity.”
That punishing thought may not actually show up in any of the Biblical accounts, but in recent months the amirites have invaded my social media. My first reaction (I’d been looking at a lot of Italian librettos recently) was that an amirite was some Italian or Latin second-person plural I didn’t get. But of course it isn’t, it’s just am I right reduced to its bare forked essence. This realization did not make me a happy man.
In American advertising lingo, rite makes mite. Or maybe might. The ShopRite grocery chain is the first rite I can remember. ShopRite is a postwar neologism; for a while in the fifties and sixties, the name was spelled with a hyphen (Shop-Rite), after which the logo lost its hyphen but kept the internal cap.
I imagine that rite felt sleek and optimistic in 1946. It must have still felt that way in 1995, when PriceRite began offering, as its website declares, “Impossibly, Incredibly, Inconceivably Low Prices Everyday” (not every day). I don’t know if everyday is accidentally maladroit or simply two words subjected to the same geologic forces that gave us PriceRite to begin with.
Madison Avenue’s rite stuff belongs to that category of shortened forms with a twist—like E-ZPass (no space after the Z) and DayGlo or, more recently, the collateral-loan business called simply Borro. All are orthographic novelties developed in the name of branding and copyright.
Amirite, however, is something else—it’s the n’est-ce pas? of social media. Instead of Frenchness, though, it’s about speed and of-the-moment-ness. It’s Twitterspeak—meaning delivered by the fewest possible letters easily decipherable by the reader in a 140-character environment.
I’m almost resigned to amirite on Twitter, though I got to that point by watching distinguished professors tweet ppl instead of people. (As Streisand didn’t sing, or as far as I know tweet, ppl who need ppl are luckiest in world.)
Amirite may be defensible in cramped linguistic quarters, but there have been outbreaks of amirite in other venues, like Facebook, where we all know you can write and type and upload until the cows, not to mention your cats, come home. An amirite on Facebook is a sign that the streamlined neologism can work its charms most anywhere.
If this linguistic twistup speaks to you, there’s a website called Amirite? that presents the viewer with the digital equivalent of a Horn & Hardart automat. (Users of the website might ask their grandparents about automats.)
The slogan of Amirite? is “every opinion matters.” On the website you can find rows and rows of boxes with questions like “Nothing says summer like grass stains, amirite?” to which you can respond by clicking Agree (green, cartoon figure with thumbs up) or Disagree (red, cartoon figure making sort of a “bad dog” pointing gesture). The idea is that you agree and disagree to your heart’s delight, and even create your own questions, at which point you too can become, as the website says proudly, an amiriter. I don’t know that there’s more to it than that, except of course for the advertising.
For the record, I’m highly doubtful that every opinion matters. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from social media, it’s that you can’t go broke telling people that whatever they can type is worth reading by somebody somewhere.
(Awkward pause as blogger casts doubtful eye over words on screen. Considers deleting. Doesn’t.)
You can follow me on Twitter @WmGermano
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