Final Word

The never-ending world of ditto

Ditto.jpg

Social media has turned a word, called by some the worst and laziest one in English, also into one of the most used ones in modern communication.

Surprisingly, it turns out that it is also an ancient word that has been around for many centuries, dating back to Latin, where it served pretty much the same purpose as it does today, to save us time, effort and space on the medium we are writing on. Doing some research on this word also led me – who, I must admit, is not a big user of it  – to discover what a massive impact the social media has in creating a new generation of words and abbreviations in our vocabulary.

Some of us more senior members of society, can easily get lost with some of the everyday communication doing the rounds on the all-conquering social media networks now dominating human interaction.

In fact, you do not necessarily need to be all that old, considering the following statement on the  HubSpot blog (blog being a new word from web and log): “…  with new social media networks and innovative software cropping up almost daily, even seasoned social media users are bound to run into a term or acronym that leaves them thinking, "WTF?"

Ditto

When my matriculant daughter the other day, looking up from the WhatsApp conversation she was involved in, asked me where the word ditto comes from, I immediately knew my memory alone was not going to be enough to work with.

After all, I would not call myself a noob – a dictionary-recognised word since 2009, with amateur as synonym – meaning “a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity, especially computing or the use of the Internet.”

It turns out that the word we got to know in the days of completing forms or questionnaires by pen on paper to avoid repeating answers ‘already given’ (often represented by inverted commas or apostrophes), is quite an ancient one.

Its origin is the Latin word dictus, meaning “having been said” and arrived in English in the first half of the 17th century from Italian’s Tuscan dialect, spelled detto and used in bookkeeping by traders to avoid repeatedly writing in full the months in which transactions took place.

Detto became ditto in English with pretty much the same function of avoiding writing repeats of months full out, with the first published reference dated 1625. By the late 17 century it was also used in a more general sense to mean ‘the same’ or ‘aforementioned.’

By the late 18th century it was also sometimes used as a term to indicate agreement with something said by someone, like if someone would say “white monopoly capital is our problem” some others might call out “Ditto!”

In the US millions of Americans who enthusiastically agree with a right-wing broadcaster, Rush Limbaugh, are said to be proud to calling themselves dittoheads.

The phenomenon of people modelling themselves on some idle or for top stage performers to be impersonated by others, are also not new and the term “dittoship” was first recorded in 1869.

But the Slangguide informs us that ditto has come into most common use in the world of the internet and the associated social media in texting, chat apps, on Facebook and elsewhere on ‘the net’  to “agree with a statement or apply the content of the statement to someone or something else, whilst avoiding repetition.”

Final word

Judged by the change in political- rhetoric and tone lately by President Jacob Zuma and others in the ANC, apparently to counter the populist onslaught of Julius Malema and the EFF, one might almost suspect them of having entered dittoship.

A test

But we have only touched on the tip of the iceberg as far as the influence of social media on language use is concerned.

We have compiled a list of ten of the most used social media terms, or internet slang words. See how many of them you know and mail your answers and contact details to us at [email protected]

The first 10 correct answers will receive a free copy of our collection of Final Word columns, Babalaas to Hell.

The term/words:

1.    SMH………………………………………………………………………………

2.    LMAO…………………………………………………………………………….

3.    Srsly………………………………………………………………………………

4.    FOMO…………………………………………………………………………….

5.    TBH……………………………………………………………………………….

6.    MILF………………………………………………………………………………*

7.    NSFW…………………………………………………………………………….

8.    ISO……………………………………………………………………………….

9.    Namaste………………………………………………………………………….

10.  Woot…………………………………………………………………………….

*On number 6 there is a tip: The term was first coined in 1999 in the movie American Pie.

by Piet Coetzer

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