Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Coffeetweets: bonding around the bean on Twitter

Presentation I gave at Freeling
I'll be posting more on general patterns in my twitter corpus soon but I thought I'd write about something I am working on right now....coffeetweets - a form of coffeetalk.

I have to confess that I have felt the need to post a pic of the cup of coffee in front of me...more than once (like my Mona Lisa coffee cup?). What is that about? Why do we compose tweets about #coffee like this?:

Got my morning cup of #coffee, ready to start my day off!

It's clearly not just about coffee (in the ideational sense). The chapter I am writing at the moment for 'The Language of Social Media' (a collection of sociolinguistics work on SM to be published by Palgrave Macmillan) argues that it is mostly about affiliation - we like to bond around that morning coffee. It's a social thing. Interpersonal.

The phenomenon is not exclusive to microblogging. There's a lot of coffee discourse on the web....e.g. I enjoy this blog: coffee served daily.
Why does it feel good to know there are other people out there having their morning coffee too? One tweeter captured the experience:


More on this project soon ...if you're interested?


  1. Yet, don't different fields lend themselves more or less easily to different types of evaluation (different types of affect, judgment and appreciation) and therefore affiliation around them? I think that was the central aspect of Stenglin's theorisation of Bonding, as the coupling of field and tenor, which itself builds on earlier ideas by Lemke, who was - if my memory serves me right - drawing on Bakhtin.

  2. Sure, so I think of social bonds (in Knight's sense) as construed through particular couplings of ideational and evaluative meanings at the discourse semantic level (inflected by field, tenor, mode variables). I guess coffee here has become a bonding icon in Stenglin's terms?

  3. I guess so too... though to be honest I'm still not quite clear what the difference is between Stenglin's and Knight's work on these questions... Maybe that's something you can tackle on Thursday? ;-))
    BTW, should there be an SF-light and an SF-heavy stream of the blog?

  4. All tricky stuff! Let's see how I go for thursday :) I have something in mind on humblebrags too.

    Not sure I could manage 2 streams....and I would halve my 3 readers :P

  5. I'll happily make smalltalk about the weather, but coffee chit-chat drives me up a wall. I know that people in an office are just bonding when they gather around an urn and say things like "Boy I really need this" or "Looks like sludge today", but something specifically about it gets under my skin. This is a tricky thing to confess to your co-workers because it sounds so judgmental, though years ago I did tell one person about it, and afterwards she made a point of engaging me in the most inane coffee chatter she could manage, which was a successful shared intimacy.

    My hypothesis is that I hate coffee chit-chat because it is a site-specific cliché: you go into an office kitchenette and feel its presence lurking. I don't encounter a lot of #coffee on Twitter, and I wonder if it would rankle me less because it's despatialized.

    1. Sorry that I somehow missed your comment.

      I think we are usually responding to the way the underlying bond is being played .... lots of that is supported by paralanguage - maybe some of that meaning potential is being deployed in hashtags?

      I'm bad at food appreciation chitchat as it always seems like a competition about who is more 'authentic'....

  6. I'll be posting more on general patterns in my twitter corpus soon but I thought I'd write about something I am working on right now....coffeetweets - a form of coffeetalk.

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