How do you spell #Hiphop?

from "How Black People Use Twitter," Slate, 8.10.2010

Teaching a composition course on hiphop studies, the question arose among my students as to what the “correct spelling” of hiphop was. Is it HipHop, hip-hop, Hip-hop, Hip Hop, what? Uncertainties of hyphen and capitalization left us with about ten different choices. My major message to my students was that they ought to pick one spelling and stick with it, especially within a given paper. But, I added, my preferred spelling is “hiphop”–one word, no hyphen, no caps–just like the hashtag.

Because, hiphop, HipHop, Hiphop, or HIPHOP, the search query all comes out the same.

Before all our information went online, research meant using your brain to sort through a card catalog and the indexes of various books and publications. As a human, it was easy to see that if you were searching for “hip-hop,” “Hip Hop” probably contained some relevant information. But it’s a new world. Webtexts like wikis and blogs are increasingly trusted sources of information, and older publications, from books to back issues of newspapers, are finding their ways online and into the purview of Google Search.

For me, spelling our favorite cultural phenomenon “hiphop” is political, albeit in a dorky digital humanities sort of way. It’s organizing: not our community, but our information. (Heck, it’s the information age.) One-word #hiphop means those pesky little hips and hops won’t get lost on the interwebs; it strengthens our ability to seek out other hiphop heads, whether they’re blogging in Spanish or Arabic or Japanese. It creates a digital correspondence between previously searchable web databases and, now, the enormous conversation on #hiphop that’s taken hold on Twitter.

Call it a linguistic unity movement. Call it a language nerd’s rallying cry. Just, please, call it hiphop.

…Why, how do you spell it?

(from “Puns not Guns”)

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