Mt. Vernon Register-News

Community News Network

December 31, 2013

The Internet's most variously spelled word

This past summer, the "Today" show used its Twitter account to share some news about the birth of an unusually heavy child. Along with a link to its story about the immense infant, "Today" included for its more than 2 million followers this brief note: "Woah baby! 13-lb. 7-oz. baby delivered in Spain."

It was a typical "Today" show tweet — punchy, conversational, vanilla — but it caught the eye of New York magazine senior editor Dan Amira. Unmoved by word of a gigantic newborn, Amira — who recently left New York magazine for a job at "The Daily Show" — focused on something smaller (much smaller): the placement of an "h." In retweeting the message, Amira affixed a brief, pointed comment: "It's 'whoa.' "

He drove home the same point a week later when @HuffPostEdu tweeted a link accompanied by the sentence, "Whoah: Professors get bulletproof whiteboards." Political reporter Chris Cillizza heard from Amira when he decided to go with "WHOAH" in a tweet about the unusually early availability of pumpkin spice latte this year, and Time's Zeke Miller got called out by Amira on two different occasions during four weeks of whoa tweets. Although he had moved on to other topics by September, Amira's half-prescriptivist, half-hilarious crusade shone light on a notable fact about 2013: It was the year of everybody spelling "whoa" a zillion different ways.

Without question, this has been an especially whoa-full year. But why? "Whoa" is hardly a new word; it dates back to at least the early 17th century. At that time it was used mostly in shouted form and was intended to garner the attention of someone in the distance. Around the the mid-1800s, people began using "whoa" to halt forward-moving horses, and by the latter half of the 20th century it had morphed into an expression for conveying alarm, surprise, or advanced interest. (Messrs. Bill and Ted solidified the strength of this usage in 1989, Joey Lawrence sealed the deal during the '90s, and Keanu Reeves reappeared without Bill S. Preston, Esq. to help usher the word into the new millennium via "The Matrix.")

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks