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Chat, the Collective Noun for Livestreaming Viewers

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Mav in Madison, Wisconsin, has heard content creators on platforms like YouTube and Twitch address their viewers collectively with the word chat, as in Chat, is this real? and Do you see this, chat? She’s heard some people describe chat used in this way as a fourth-person pronoun. Is that correct? No, it’s simply a vocative use of the noun, much the same way one might address one’s audience or listeners or readers. The word gamers is increasingly used in the same way, such as YouTube videos in which the speaker greets viewers with Hi, gamers! This usage of part of something to indicate the whole — in this case, the whole experience of streaming — is a form of meronomy, as in nice wheels to mean “nice car,” even though the phrase alludes to only part of the vehicle. Another example of a meronym is boots on the ground, which denotes actual service members on the ground, not just their footwear. This is part of a complete episode.

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