Magpies and Maggots

While listening to a morning radio program—hosted by a journalist I admire—I heard her talk about how information about all of us has been captured by social media companies that helps target us for advertisers.

When she said, “the data is …,” I winced.

One of my peeves is that data are plural (the singular is datum).

As a scientist—albeit a social scientist—the data-are-plural mantra was drummed into my noggin in college.

The journalist is on my Twitter feed, so I figured I would send her a quick Tweet to remind her that data are plural.

But I talked myself out of it before I opened my tablet.

The problem is that social media, like Twitter, make it super easy for me to drop a note to a stranger and voice my opinion.

And react.

Just because I can react online doesn’t mean I should.

I’m not pals with the reporter: I’m not her editor and I’m not her judge.

Think of Twitter’s winged logomark as a magpie.

Magpies became symbols of gossip-hounds in English parlance.

A chatterbox was considered a magpie where I grew up, in England.

The word “pie” refers to pica—the genus name for the magpie (a member of the crow family).

And mag refers to maggot.

You know: larvae. Grubs. Bugs.

I will think of a chattering, maggoty bird next time I hear about a tweet with a cruel message.

You are what you tweet.

18 March 2019




















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in nativescience, social media, tweet, twitter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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