On the Epicness of Twitter (?)

Tip o’ the pileus to Phoebe Acheson on twitter who alerted us to an article in the New York Times Magazine about rappers using twitter hashtags for inspiration and which also included this excerpt:

There has been some debate among musicians and critics about whether such hip-hop rhymes constitute cheating. But these critiques are absurd. A rhyme can be inane or inspired, whatever semantic relation it bears to the line it concludes. In fact, it’s the way the hashtag loosens those old semantic strictures that makes the form so appealing to wordsmiths. A poet friend of mine noted that, because of possibilities afforded by the hashtag, writing tweets “feels compositionally very akin to poetry. . . . You’re suspending things in relation to one another in an extremely complex form.”

The hashtag seems to her a distant cousin of the refrain: a phrase that relates in different, complex ways — direct or tangential, ironic or nonsensical — to the lines it follows. It also has something in common with parentheses, explaining or qualifying whatever phrase it interrupts. And where it captures the author’s mood or aspect, it resembles the epithet, the “white-armed Nausicaas” and “wine-dark seas” that populate the “Odyssey.” Yet the hashtag may well be a new rhetorical device in its own right. In the literary glossary that ranges from antimetabole to zeugma, there’s no term that exactly captures all that the hashtag is capable of.

… now picturing Homer on his cellphone, doing the Iliad line-by-line, and every now and then doing the #winedarksea … we clearly need a Greek word for the hashtag; octothorp is halfway there, but we can do better I suspect. Suggestions?

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