As the fictional quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme would say, “It’s only a question of where you put the decimal point.” Or perhaps in the case of Twitter hashtags, it’s a question of where you interpret the spaces to be.
Once in a while, joining several words together to create a hashtag can create something completely different than the intended message. Yesterday the UK learned of the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher – the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Soon after the news broke a hashtag started trending, derived from the phrase “now Thatcher’s dead”. However, spaces and apostrophes don’t work within hashtags, so the truncated version doing the rounds was #nowthatchersdead.
Remembering Lincoln Rhyme’s tid-bit of analytical advice, how you break up the words that make up the hashtag gives us a very different story all together. We’re no longer discussing the death of a former UK Prime Minister… But rather mourning the loss of an American singer and actress:
now / thatcher’s / dead
now / that / cher’s / dead
The exact same string of letters, but two very different messages. It’s only a question of where you put the decimal point. As often happens with all things internet, common sense is the first thing to go out of the window, so many people began tweeting to say that Cher had died.
This isn’t the first time that a hashtag has been interpreted differently than intended. Last November there were guffaws all round after singer Susan Boyle’s PR team made a hash (sorry, couldn’t resist it!) of promoting her new release on Twitter. The hashtag #susanalbumparty – meant to be Susan album party – also turned out to be a rather naughty double entendre when read as Su’s anal bum party.
Which then begs the question, was this a simple PR gaff or in fact some very clever marketing? As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the extent of the coverage was far greater as a result of the risqué hashtag.
Have you ever misinterpreted a hashtag? Without proper punctuation it’s easy for the meaning of something to be changed radically. Let us know the hashtags that have left you scratching your head!