Say What? African Americans Are The Force Behind Twitter Slang

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November 27, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

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African Americans love Twitter. In fact, according to studies, blacks  are more likely than whites to join Twitter. So it’s no wonder blacks are driving national Twitter slang.

A recent study by computer scientist Jacob Eisenstein of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and his colleagues found that much of the shorthand used on the social networking site evolves in cities with large African American populations before spreading out more widely, reports The Root.

And according to BBC News, “Spelling bro, slang for brother (male friend or peer) as bruh began in the southeastern U.S. (where it reflects the local pronunciation) before finally jumping to southern California. The emoticon ‘-__-‘ (denoting mild annoyance) began in New York and Florida before colonizing both coasts and gradually reaching Arizona and Texas.”

Why does this happen? One possibility, notes The Root, is that innovations spread by simple diffusion from person to person. Another suggestion is that bigger population areas  “exert a stronger attraction on neologisms, so that they go first to large cities by a kind of gravitational pull.” Still, others think words might spread initially within some minority groups but remain invisible to the majority.

As it has been widely reported, African Americans are early adopters of new technology. And, as we recently noted, blacks are also over-indexing on sites like Tumblr.

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