You may have noticed in the current language epidemic that has been sweeping social media – you may even have taken part in it yourself.
It's not the large, earth-shattering shift in language seen when the introduction of character-limited text messaging led to widespread vowel omission and an explosion of acronyms that are now commonplace in written and even spoken English.
Instead, the current fad is confined to two words: "Everything" and "This."
You might have seen someone highlighting a link they've shared by commenting "THIS," so as to draw your attention to it, and signify a approval – or sometimes dismay – at the content.
Since then it's grown, and now you're seeing entire list-based articles comprising solely of the word "This," and its use on social media shifting the word from being a demonstrative pronoun to a powerful declaration: "This. So much this!"
The pronoun "Everything" is being used in the same hyperbolic way – look at the way it is used by the LGBT website Advocate, which shun nouns and adjectives in the name of its "7 Things That Are Everything This Week" feature.
When an adjective like "amazing" and a noun like "love" really doesn't quite do justice to the intense opinion or emotion a person has about something, "This" and "This is everything" take over.
Social media + Clickbait = Everything?
The New York Times explored the phenomenon in a piece last month entitled "How Everything Became the Highest Form of Praise."
The reason for its popularity, the newspaper notes, lies with the nature of social media "banter," which it says "places a premium on pithy hyperbole, on outsize statements delivered with minimal keystrokes."
"If, like Dianna Argon, you’re a fan of the Radiohead album “A Moon Shaped Pool,” you could lay out the reasons in a carefully worded Facebook post. But why bother, when you can make a single definitive pronouncement, which transmits your enthusiasm and brooks no debate?"
This hyperbole is in turn taken on by companies who thrive on social media attention, and have become adepts at using such language as crucial elements of the "clickbait" content they create in the ferocious competition for page views.
Slate.com investigated the use of "this" in THIS (see what we did there?) article, coming to a similar conclusion as the New York Times: "'This' is clicky," it says. It can be an invaluable shortcut editors can use for punchy headlines.
As ever with language, Slate notes, "this" is evolving. Shifting from an earlier use of vehement agreement of comments, statements or content within political discourse, to one which is wholly more emotional.
"Increasingly, this resoundingly embraces less contentious matters. One Facebook group shared an image that read “the mondayest tuesday ever.” “This. So much this,” the group commented. Another exclaimed “So much this!” of an inspirational graphic featuring an open book overlooking the ocean.
"These are the this’s of ecstasy. They are elicited by a thought so precisely worded, by a sentiment so exquisitely encapsulated. By an experience, lingering dormant, amorphous, or unarticulated in our subconscious, so perfectly instantiated that we must megaphone our elation in that primordial pronoun: THIS."
Next week, we take a look at the rise of "Yassssssss"*
*We probably won't.