Stretchable Words.

Public Library of Science reports on an article by Gray, Danforth, and Dodds in PLoS ONE:

An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as “duuuuude,” “heyyyyy,” or “noooooooo.” Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020. In spoken and written language, stretched words can modify the meaning of a word. For instance, “suuuuure” can imply sarcasm, while “yeeessss” may indicate excitement. Stretched words are rare in formal writing, but the rise of social media has opened up new opportunities to study them.

Gray and colleagues have now completed the most comprehensive study to date of “stretchable” words in social media. They developed a new, more thorough strategy for identifying stretched words in tweets and used it to analyze a randomly selected dataset of about 10 percent of all tweets generated between September 2008 and December 2016—totaling about 100 billion tweets. […]

They also identified two key ways of measuring the characteristics of stretchable words: balance and stretch. Balance refers to the degree to which different letters tend to be repeated. For instance, “ha” has a high degree of balance because when it is stretched, the “h” and the “a” tend to be repeated just about equally. “Goal” is less balanced, with “o” repeated more than any other letter in the word.

Stretch refers to how long a word tends to be stretched. For instance, short words or sounds like “ha” have a high degree of stretch because people often repeat them many times (e.g., “hahahahahahahaha”). Meanwhile, regular words like “infinity” have lower stretch, often with just one letter repeated: “infinityyyy.”

Interesting stuff; my only quibble would be that “goal” is in a category of its own, since it is notoriously stretched almost to infinite length by announcers and was frequently written with many “o”s to reflect that long before Twitter was dreamed of. Thanks, Jonathan!


  1. It seems like repeating “ha” is different from “stretching”. At that initial mention I was confused because it seemed to be talking about “hhaa”, “hhhaaa”, etc., which are bizarre.

  2. Good point.

  3. January First-of-May says

    It seems like repeating “ha” is different from “stretching”. At that initial mention I was confused because it seemed to be talking about “hhaa”, “hhhaaa”, etc., which are bizarre.

    Yeah, same. A good example that can be stretched in both ways is “oh”, though I’m not sure how equal it is in practice.

  4. “oh”


  5. Like so much Zep, dumb but irresistible.

  6. David Marjanović says

    almost to infinite length



    But there are alternatives. Here’s some simple repetitive screaming, followed by much more impressive repetition and then a different kind of stretching until 1:42.

    Visual stretching in Spanish almost always involves just the last letter. That has taken over the Internet.

  7. AJP Crown says

    – My wife’s gone to the West Indies.
    – D’yer Maker?
    – No, she went of her own accord.

    Ancient joke, spelling by Plant.

  8. John Cowan says

    Oh with GOAT has to become ohhhhhh…, whereas ooo…h is the stretched form of ooh with GOOSE.

  9. The NYTWIT dataset contains 53 cases of this phenomenon, known as “expressive lengthening”, collected from the New York times between November 2017 and March 2019 (so it’s def out of social media!)

  10. Owlmirror says

    Agreeing with the first comment, it would be clearer to call “nononono(etc….)” a repeated syllable, and “Nooooooo!” a stretched syllable.

    ObComics: Yaaaaaaaay.

    Is repetition preclimactic, and stretching climactic?

    Eg: Goal!Goal!Goal!Goal!Goal! . . . GOOOOOOOAL!

    Huh. I just went and looked up “Vuvuzela” on Wiki, and the sample sound has a transcription of: WWWUuuuuuuuwuwuwuwuweweweweweweweewUUUUUUU

  11. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh is in ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ with some hyphens

  12. Apparently Google Books search needs the hyphens; I got:

    Your search – Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh – did not match any book results.

  13. Trond Engen says

    PlasticPaddy: I just went and looked up “Vuvuzela” on Wiki

    I remember grieving a lost opportunity when Venezuela didn’t play in the 2010 World Cup.

  14. Owlmirror says

    @Trond Engen: That’s an impressive misattribution, given that as I type this, PlasticPaddy has not yet commented on this thread.

  15. Trond Engen says

    Hah! Sorry to both of you. And the fun (or scary) thing is that I even meant to write Owlmirror. Something came up between copying the text and adding the attribution, and somehow my brain misfired.

  16. Trond Engen says

    This time I went back up and checked. Twice. And once more after posting.

  17. George Grady says

    There’s also this classic(?) beer commercial. It has its own Wikipedia article (but then again, what doesn’t?).

  18. David Marjanović says

    Oh with GOAT has to become ohhhhhh…, whereas ooo…h is the stretched form of ooh with GOOSE.

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