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Gretchen McCulloch @gretchenmcc

So, has anyone in started work on an oral history of people saying birdsite/birdworld on here or were you all waiting for an internet linguist to take up residence?

Please @ me with your theories/stories!

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There's "hellbird" too; have you come across that yet? :)

Ah yes, hellbird has an emoji, that should make @gretchenmcc happy. :)

@gretchenmcc I've seen people on Twitter also call it the "blue bird site" in a derisive way—but anecdotally, not prior to Mastodon's break-out last year

@gretchenmcc I’ve actually never heard birdworld! When I joined in April(?) 2017, I used “the birdcage” because that’s what it felt like to me to be there (and to try to escape from it) but as the user base expanded, I dropped it because I didn’t know if people would understand what I meant by it.

Somebody I follow calls it Birdhouse too and it seems to work (it's a descriptor gone in CWs and etc.). I think people expect anything about birds to be about Twitter now. :)

@SuzanEraslan So far I've only seen people on use "birdworld" (it's an instance where you're not allowed to use the letter "e" so "site" is out)

@gretchenmcc People use it because the original word is triggering for some people. "birbsite" or "birb" are also common.

@gretchenmcc Quite possibly for the same reasons people say "orange website" to refer to one particular forum, whatever those reasons happen to be.

@gretchenmcc we've been waiting for an internet linguist! Though I can't offer much history; this place was already talking funny by the time I arrived.

@gretchenmcc Perhaps I'm the only one calling it 'twatter'.

@gretchenmcc I first saw birdworld a few days ago.

From when I joined in March-ish 2017, I remember mostly birbsite/birdsite. I always saw it as a way to be cute and not take Twitter too serious, and that's how I still use "birbsite". Verbally taking twitter from its pedestal, but not really derogatory. More like "we're fluffy elephant place, they're birbsite, nothing out of the ordinary".

I've never used the word hellbird, but it's been around for a while I think, probably already in use when I joined?

@gretchenmcc I took it as taboo avoidance that aligned with the content-warning culture on Mastodon, plus an acknowledgement that many new joiners in 2017 spent a lot of time comparing Masto and Birdsite. Therefore any mention of Twitter was skunked, so calling it birdsite seemed a way to acknowledge the unpleasant subject we knew everyone would rather avoid.

@gretchenmcc I think @shel and @Trev who've been here almost since the start may have the history of it to some degree.

I know shel also knows why we say gameing instead of gaming as well.

@maloki @gretchenmcc @Trev we say gameing cuz it was an in-joke among @tom's friends that caught on over here.

i don't know who started birdside i think it might have been @slimekat?

@shel @maloki @gretchenmcc it went through several iterations (hellbird/birdhell to birdsite during beta in 2016) back when. The first few settlers were people used to Twitter harassment enabled by full text search, and they developed the cant as a preventative measure (despite the fact that Mastodon doesn't have full text indexing built in). I think "birdworld" is a newer formation.

@gretchenmcc for what it's worth, I was on 4chan and #4chan IRC from 2003-2007 and can probably recall or answer some questions about chan slang from before the proliferation of "image macro" style memes, if that's ever useful

@shel @maloki @gretchenmcc @tom worth noting that #gameing spread from tom's circle initially because of a hashtag contrasting how most people might play games with how a Mastodon user might enjoy them (gaming: gameing: in the tired: wired: format)

@gretchenmcc I _can_ say, as one of the first settlers in the fediverse (I came here with my system in November or December 2016 and started with an account on, the "birdsite" neologism was in use from almost the beginning.

@gretchenmcc no, but can I interest you in some observations of emoji usage?

Early on, 🍍was a symbol of welcome to new users, but I’ve been seeing less of that recently. has a bit of a thing for replacing letters with emoji of that letter, especially se it didn’t show up; I’m doing this on a mediocre iOS app)
But the most interesting usages are of instance-specific custom emoji. More on that in a moment.

Apologies for the length of that moment. Custom emoji mean that, if someone identifies a need for a gesture or gesture variant (like :blobpats:), they can just ask their admin to make one. My most used emoji is a custom one, :teapot:, that I think conveys the connotations of tea better than 🍵.

Pinging @chr who makes a lot of custom emoji. Also gonna mention the neologism "emojos," which is a peeve of mine

@gretchenmcc @chr
There's also opportunities to create emoji for specialized uses. On, the Magic the Gathering-themed instance I co-admin, we have symbols for the colors of mana (not the trademarked symbols though, the guy never got back to us).

@DialMforMara @chr has anyone custom-emoji'd :wug: yet? and your :teapot: is great!

@gretchenmcc of note people call mastodon "fluffy elephant website"

@gretchenmcc Superstition. If we say the name here, it will be cursed in the same way.

@gretchenmcc I've never heard birdworld before but I love it and I'm going to start using it

@gretchenmcc also 'birbsite' as a secondary obfuscation/meme reference

@gretchenmcc I've often wondered if there was a relationship between Portlandia's "put a bird on it" and "the other" bird. (BA in Lx, but not a practicing Lx'er).

@gretchenmcc I remember @Gargron saying 'bird site' a lot early on, but I'm not sure if that came from quitter or other gnusocial before mastodon

@KevinMarks @gretchenmcc no i picked it up from other mastodon users at the time

@kevinmarks @gargron @gretchenmcc Bird site is definitely a mastodon thing.  The GS side often ridiculed it as an infantile and immature naming.  Just call Twitter by name.
@KevinMarks @gretchenmcc @Gargron My guess is that it came from him. I don't remember "birdsite" being used before Mastodon.

@bob @KevinMarks @gretchenmcc @gargron ISTR birdsite was used nearly 10 years ago, back in the days. I know for sure that "t-word" was used.

@bob @gargron @gretchenmcc @KevinMarks definitely could be wrong, and my memory definitely could be wrong

my memory: notoriously not good

@bob @gargron @gretchenmcc @kevinmarks I was on Identica from 2009 onward, and I do not recall seeing "Birdsite" in use there. "T-word" was used, but "Twitter" was used more often than any shamename.

@gretchenmcc i recall it being because a lot of early adopters were specifically trying to escape twitter. the euphemism was always a little tongue in cheek - birdsite, birbsite, hellbird, hellsite, etc. i felt like that specific slang was a naturally evolving social cohesion thing, we all agreed twitter sucked

@gretchenmcc Joined first half of 2017 - always saw it as "birdsite".

My assumption was a combo of two things:
1) a community sensitive to triggering content (and given the number of Twitter refugees on Mastodon, an assumption that a direct mention could be triggering)
2) a general propensity for silliness and playfulness.

@Modern_Industrial @gretchenmcc I thought its popularity was mainly a way for people to discuss the Birdsite and yet bypass “Twitter” as a common filtered regex. That and a bit of a pejorative taboo usage, puh puh. There is possibly a whole discourse to be had around the deployment of euphemisms to negotiate technological language barriers in this way. Probably a dissertation or two for them as want it.

@Shufei @gretchenmcc Oh, not the site! A woman was looking for slang words describing 'twitter' in a poor light and I thought she might like slang words for FB too. I've never used facebook itself.

@gemlog @gretchenmcc Yes, I understood that. Which is why I added “Faceborg”.

@Shufei @gretchenmcc Ah! My bad! :-) I thought you'd read it out of context and I was the one misunderstanding - not you! :-)
That's alright: I'm well-practiced at being wrong.

@Shufei @gretchenmcc ... and, you're another sdf-er who reads about the same ppl as I do and already new about gretchen. I should really take more care getting caught up the morning before work. Sorry.

@gemlog @gretchenmcc Haha, no sorries needed at all, no worries whatsoever. I figured you were skimming or something. I ought to have added quotes anyway. Faceborg, no, I don’t like. “Faceborg” the word is likeable!

@Shufei @gretchenmcc Sadly, many of my friends are 'one with the faceborg' - including my own grown children.
I like your word better, because it is more descriptive of how the corporation operates.

@gemlog @gretchenmcc I wish I could say it was my word, but it’s been around a while. I understand how it sucks to have to keep up with such networks... Facebook used to be just a nifty blogging platform, but became a monster. Maybe you can move your kids to fedi?

@Shufei @gretchenmcc
Nah. They're grown and can make their own decisions. It's not like I neglected to inform them. They do as they wish and they know about the fediverse.
OTOH, friend's kids who also grew up knowing me do NOT use FB. Perhaps it's my kids form of rebellion to use it? :-) could be much worse!
Also, my daughter inlaw jumped on masto when I introduced her to it and loved it -- but she's also japanese and chose such a home instance as well.

@gretchenmcc I’ve seen people saying variations on “birdsite” for years on twitter (i imagine before Mastodon started). Before that I saw “this website”, “this hellsite”, “twitter dot com”. I suspect there was overlap with people who would refer to hacker news as “(the) orange website”.

@gretchenmcc It’s essentially the Hastur/Voldemort performative taboo, only for a website full of awful stuff, which thus must not be named.


I found it odd at first but never found an explanation. Now it feels like a Voldemort situation where one is trying to avoid conjuring the spirit of birdsite by saying the actual name.