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The Evolution of "That [Noun] Though"

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How is language evolving on the Internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

You may have seen comments like this online:

dat pic tho
that look though
that backflip doe
that face tho

What's going on here?

First of all, let's establish what we're looking at. We've got several parts: "dat" or "that" at the beginning, a noun like "pic" or "face" in the middle, and a variously-spelled "tho/doe/though" at the end. And the overall effect is positive: to say "dat hair tho" means that you approve of someone's hair.

Here's an early example of a popular Vine ("dat backflip tho") that popularized the "dat ... doe"/"that ... though" construction:

We can see there's already variation in how it's spelled: the creator of this video, @KingBach, tags it #ButThatBackflipTho in June 2013, while another video titled "dat dagger tho" went up on YouTube in April 2013. The second spelling is also used on Know Your Meme, which links it to an earlier image meme. It does look like the full "that … though" version is the newest: Urban Dictionary, for example, has "dat … doe" entries from late 2013 ("dat [blank] doe" from November 2013, for example) but the earliest "that … though" entry isn't until July 2014—almost a year later.

Why might the spelling have changed? The pronunciation of "th" as "d" has a long history in many English varieties, including African American English, which is where this and many other slang terms have been taken from (see bae). The use of "dat ... doe" is a form of eye dialect, a way of spelling out non-standard pronunciations, but it can be unclear whether the spellings come from within the community, or from outsiders making assumptions about what they think a dialect sounds like. The gradual increase of the spelling "that ... though" may reflect the bleaching of its associations with African American English as the construction spread—and the diversity of spellings overall may be linked to people often picking it up via speech rather than writing.

But "dat ... tho" hasn't just changed spelling—it's also changed meaning. The earlier uses of "that … tho" tend to present it in a larger context where the "though" indicates a mitigating factor in comparison to some other thing that's not as good. For example, in "that backflip though," KingBach runs in calling "I'll save you" after a woman's purse is stolen. But instead of chasing after the thief, he runs up a wall and does an—admittedly impressive—backflip. Wait, what?? "Yeah but that backflip tho" acknowledges that the backflip is both well-executed and completely unexpected.

Similarly, the earlier Urban Dictionary entries for "dat booty doe" and similar expressions come with example scenarios which start with a negative comment about someone's face—a response like "but dat booty doe" or "dat smile tho" is clearly intended to express a mitigating factor.

But by a year later, it's become a general way of expressing approval without the initial setup of surprise or disappointment. A commenter on Reddit around the same time adds another contradiction-free example: "Watching a football game. Receiver makes great catch. 'That catch tho!'"

You could think of it as the speaker preemptively contradicting the objection you haven't even made yet. That superlative though.

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This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]

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holidays
The Plugin That Keeps the Internet From Spoiling Santa Claus
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During simpler times, the biggest threat to a child's belief in Santa was usually older siblings or big-mouthed classmates. Today, kids have access to an entire world wide web, full of potentially Santa-spoiling content. Luckily, there's a plugin that helps parents maintain their kids’ innocence through the holidays.

Created by the virtual private network provider Hide My Ass (HMA), the free software analyzes web activity for any information that might threaten to “bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down.” In place of the problematic content, the plugin brings up an image of the jolly man himself. Typing the phrase “Santa is not real” into Google, for example, will instead take you to a web page showing nothing but a soft-focused St. Nick pointing into the camera and staring at you with judgmental eyes. The plugin is also designed to work for social media communications, internet ads, and articles like this one.


Hide My Ass

According to a survey of 2036 parents by HMA, one in eight children in the U.S. have their belief in Santa ruined online. Whether it's because of the internet or other related factors, the age that children stop believing in Santa is lower than ever.

The average age that current parents lost their faith in Santa Claus was 8.7 years old, and for today’s kids it’s 7.25 years. Concerned parents can download the plugin for Chrome here, though it may not be enough to hide every type of Santa spoiler: Of the parents who blamed the internet, 26 percent of them reported kids snooping over their shoulder as they shopped for gifts online.

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