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Friday, August 29th, 2014

Hope Cantwell on Fake Names and Wordplay in Tweets

hopecantwellHope Cantwell is a legal assistant and teacher living in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s been published in Vice and when I spoke with her recently she told me she welcomes any opportunity to write and is starting a free local paper with friends in Nashville. Cantwell, who tweets under the handle @hopiecan, also shared that she was voted wittiest out of her graduating high school class of 84 students, and she talked to me about three of her tweets, the first people she remembers following, and why she’s drawn to tweeting fake names and wordplay.

Cantwell: Most of the crap I tweet is rooted in my reaction or feelings about an experience (how droll!). With this one, I stopped in a coffee shop I'd never visited before and was feeling out of place and flustered. It's one of those places with just regulars, you know? And they're camped out in their usual spots with their Peter Nappi boots propped up on the table for everyone to see while they switch back and forth between reading The Stranger and The Nashville Scene. It was crowded and I just didn't know where or how to be, so while I was waiting I imagined the sort of person who would enter that environment, deem themselves the least pretentious person in that space, then proceed to call that space a kaffeehaus. And that thought cracked me up. Any time I can tweet the word "haus" I seize the opportunity.

What kind of writing do you do outside of Twitter? Does tweeting influence or play into that work at all?

I might be wrong, but I think a lot of people get Twitter because they're already writing/doing something creative. It was the opposite for me. I took a Journalism class in college and one of the course requirements was to get a Twitter account. Instead of partaking in the riveting online class discussions, I was paying more attention to the witty and hilarious people on it. I had no idea jokes/writing were something people did with Twitter, so that was a fun discovery. So now, besides tweets, I'm just trying to write anything substantial and comedic. Which also happens to be what I've named my right and left breasts, respectively. 

Gahh, when is Crossfit not fun to mock? Goblet squats are the real deal, so I just wanted to think of comparable fake names for workouts. One of the first people I started following on Twitter was @ShittingtonUK, the champion of made-up names for anything. It's just always fun to come up with stuff like that, and a great use of your brain. If you're ever bored, start thinking of fake names. Road trip? Fake names. Sunday Mass? Fake names. Cousin's graduation? Fake names. Crafts Bazaar? Fake names. Instant fun, I promise.

Can you think of other Twitter people you followed originally that you've noticed have influenced your style?

Oh man, three of the first people I followed were Megan Amram (@MeganAmram), Mary Charlene (@IamEnidColeslaw) and Drew Koshgarian (@MostlyPregnant). I wish I was half as funny and intelligent as any of them. They're all great examples of how to get the most out of Twitter.

When you do a list like the one in this tweet, does your brain think of them all in a short period or do you let it stew for awhile first?

Lists are too stupid and too fun to come up with. It's almost always "inspired" by some real product or name that's absurd, and then I just think of other silly-sounding shit. I try not to stew on tweets because true confession: I have very little restraint and would spend too much of my time doing that if I let myself.

It's old-ish, but like many old-ish things, I like it. I was having to drive a lot for my job and kept noticing the most ridiculous bumper stickers in all these different school parking lots. The "honk if . . ." joke premise is still one of my favorites, but this is the one of mine I didn't hate. Be warned: if I get the chance to combine lame observational comedy with wordplay, I will.

Do you have other favorite joke premises for tweets? And is wordplay something you appreciate outside of Twitter?

I always enjoy thinking of a new way to write some well-known or historic phrase. I fail often, but I just try to be clever. I'm a wordplay nerddddd. It just makes me giddy. And thank Yeezus Twitter exists so I don't actually say these things out loud, which I think answers your next question. All my friends are elated I don't have to tell them what I'm thinking anymore.

Jenny Nelson is a writer living in Brooklyn.

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