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Silver Threads: Twit or tweet

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Back in the’40s when I was growing up, “a twit” was a silly, foolish and annoying person. An insulting descriptive term that had begun to be employed a decade earlier, it was frequently used by us little girls to evaluate the boys in our class.

Almost everyone is a male or female chauvinist pig in grammar school, right?

Then, when Twitter became an outlet on the internet for the multitudes of those hungry for attention, I thought, of course, that all of them were “twits.” But “tweeters” is the correct word, implying that some old fuddy-duddy who remembered her school days urged the brains behind this new method of mass communication not to make fun of everybody who uses it.

I’ve never been tempted to use Twitter, and often wish that our new president hadn’t either. That attitude about laying your brain open to folks who have no business in there was echoed in yesterday’s The Adocate. A cartoon by the deservedly renowned Walt Handelsman pictured our chief of state headed for a table upon which rests his smartphone emblazoned with a big Twitter app.

“A travel ban everyone can agree on” read the caption.

In a Tuesday USA Today story about how Americans view the policies of President Trump, remarks about his tweeting stand out. ” ‘I think he's trying to do the best he can, but he better quit that tweeting,’ cautions Ray DeHart, 74, a retiree and one-time Democrat from Hillsville, Va., who counts himself as a strong supporter of the president. ‘It just gives the news media more fuel to fan the fires, as the old saying goes.’

“ ‘It's so high school, or junior high school,’ scoffs Rosa Ledesma, 55, from California's San Fernando Valley.

“Just 28% describe his tweets as a good way for him to communicate directly with Americans. ... The controversies the president provokes and the battles he wages in 140-character bursts — against everyone from former president Barack Obama to U.S. intelligence agencies to Arnold Schwarzenegger — have defied political norms, distracted from policy initiatives and contributed to the public's questions about Trump's temperament.”

Notice that the ages of the ages of those quoted above are 74 and 65. They can be described as seniors. I’m 81. Just call me a senior senior.

Of course, I grew up in an era in which the only social media available to the average person was contained in that shoe-box sized apparatus that hung on the kitchen wall and was activated with a crank.

You couldn’t express an inflammatory opinion on the telephone of the day, because most folks were on “party lines,” which meant that anyone sharing a line with you could pick it up while you were talking. And often did.

You were assigned a number of rings — say, three long ones — which meant that an incoming call was for you. Four short ones, and the caller wanted to speak to Miz Jackson down the hill. A long and a short, and Mr. Roundtree, who lived in the house behind the general store, should pick up the receiver.

Naturally, if you carried on a long conversation, some of the members of your “party” might possibly want to check whether you were still on the line. And just might hear a bit of conversation: “I told Lizabeth it was a shotgun wedding, but she insists on wearing a white dress …”

Partyliners were usually more careful about what they said. And you’d think today’s tweeters would be cautious and informed about the messages they send out.

And that includes all those twits — er, tweeters.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at bta7735@icloud.com.