Of Hashtags and Hate-watching


2013 has certainly been a big year for the hashtag. While hashtags were beginning to spread beyond the context of their original Twitter use last year, this year has seen other websites such as Facebook adopt the hashtag as a social-media tool.

In January 2013, hashtag was elevated to the 2012 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society (ADS), signaling its welcome into the English lexicon. Meanwhile in France, the General Commission for Terminology and Neology banned use of the word “hashtag” in official communications, offering up the term mot-dièse in its place.

“They started out useful and utilitarian,” said Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, “but have evolved to this notion of being a cultural phenomenon and acting as if you are in the know…we hashtag everything now.” But hashtagging isn’t the only thing we’re doing more of these days. The ADS also nominated the term “hate-watching” for its 2012 word of the year. Although it did not ultimately win the much publicized vote, this fascinating construction was highlighted in a recent column on neologisms called “Among the New Words” in the ADS journal American Speech.

While hate-watching might not have attained hashtag’s traction in the realm of social-media and metadata tagging, its uses are far from insubstantial. The American Dialect Society website defines hate-watching as “continuing to follow a television show despite having an aversion to it.” If the significance of hate-watching stopped there, perhaps its staying power would be limited.

However, something very interesting is happening with hate-watching, and it all starts at the prefix “hate-.” As Ben Zimmer and Charles E. Carson write in “Among the New Words,” “…hate-watching has inspired all manner of other hate-verb compounds…as in hate-reading and hate-listening.” These compounds describe a situation in which a person “despises a form of entertainment but derives some sort of perverse pleasure from it.”

Zimmer and Carson suggest that this concept of “hate-doing” existed long before there was a term for it. They say it goes at least as far back as the silent-film era when actor Erich von Stroheim had the tagline “The Man You Love to Hate.” But there’s evidence of hate-doing from even before this time. In E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel A Room with a View, he has a spectacular hate-reading scene in which Cecil Vyse, the irksome fiancé of Lucy Honeychurch, picks up a book specifically to mock it. Forster writes: “…the novel that he was reading was so bad that he was obliged to read it aloud to others. He would stroll round the precincts of the court and call out: ‘I say, listen to this, Lucy. Three split infinitives.’”

It seems remiss to talk about “hate-watching” without also mentioning the concept of “binge-watching” (sometimes also called “power streaming” when referring specifically to the streaming of videos online). That is watching hours and hours of a TV show in one sitting, or in a very short period of time. Streaming services such as Netflix even encourage this tendency by releasing all the episodes in their in-house series, such as the heavily anticipated season four of Arrested Development, on the same day. Binge-watching, of course, borrows the binge- prefix from the terms “binge drinking” and “binge eating.” The construction “guilty pleasure” also deserves a mention here. Hate-watching, hate-reading, or really hate-doing of any kind, can be more generally described as a “guilty pleasure.” Would people really watch agonizingly bad shows or read terrible books if they weren’t getting some sort of perverse enjoyment out of it? Maybe people are more open and proud about their hate than about their guilt, which would explain the way in which the hate- prefix has taken off in the last few years. However, this is perhaps a topic best explored by philosophers.

Do you hate-watch or hate-read anything? Let us know in the comments.


  1. earthmonkey -  August 1, 2013 - 4:56 pm

    I guess I always thought of things like this as “things I love to hate”.

    -sniffing skunk-stink to prove (over and over) how bad it is and how much it smells like burnt rubber bands.
    -buying anything out of the deli counter in Central American minisupers, where the meat counter is invariably surrounded by all the cleaning products, Everything has a meat-soap smell.
    -cursing about ‘having’ to scrape rotten mangos off my shoes, knowing they each cost around a buck apiece in the northwest.
    -purposely reading or watching/listening to anything too nostalgic just to feel that hearsick pang, and then wondering why I takotsubo myself all the time….hmmm.

  2. Hellish -  August 1, 2013 - 2:36 pm

    I hate-read the bible, and I mean abhor-read!!

  3. tim -  August 1, 2013 - 7:38 am

    Sounds like people are wasting their time in a counter productive way

    #bubba and all the other hate-watchers

  4. Deb -  July 31, 2013 - 8:35 am

    Hate-watch, perfect description of when I stay tuned to Breaking Amish on TLC.

  5. Pete -  July 31, 2013 - 3:22 am

    Bob, you rock too much for this world.

  6. Presto -  July 30, 2013 - 10:09 pm

    I used to hate-watch Lost simply because I wanted to find out if they ever explained any of the “mysteries” of the Island. Now that the show is over I don’t ever expect to watch it again.

  7. heh -  July 30, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    I fast. And fingers even faster than brain!!

  8. Lisa Kay -  July 29, 2013 - 1:21 pm

    WHODUNNIT !!!!

  9. mojodo -  July 28, 2013 - 11:13 am

    ‘honey boo boo’ and ‘toddlers and tiaras’-i am slowly overcoming my addiction, but i still sneak a peek once in a while. now that i’m retired, i enjoy binge watching. it’s a great way to catch up on a show that someone else recommends. my newest is the ‘walking dead’. my neice, who is married to a pastor, is the one who brought it to my attention. this show could almost qualify as hate watching-it’s extraordinarily blood and gutsy. ‘catch up binge watching’ led me to both the ‘sopranos’and ‘six feet under’ via on demand, when both were at their peak. it’s not an entirely bad thing.

  10. Emma -  July 28, 2013 - 8:11 am

    There was this show I hated, and for a while, I continued watching it and would scoff at it and bad mouth it afterwards. I felt like, some people said, sad that I wasn’t more disappointed, and almost angry at the show. Then, I stopped watching it, because it was so bad.
    Also, like someone said, when I am forced to do something, I often hate-do it.

  11. i got the thing ^ -  July 27, 2013 - 10:13 pm

    i know what you mean

  12. omini akpang -  July 27, 2013 - 11:05 am

    very soon we’ll have internet jargon as a course of study

  13. JJC -  July 27, 2013 - 9:11 am

    I suspect that “hate-watch” would accurately apply to a lot of people who continue to watch internet porn even though the repetitiveness and lack of novelty eventually becomes mind-numbing.

  14. Bubbi -  July 27, 2013 - 6:33 am

    I had never heard the term hate-watch until now and have to admit I am surprised that it is popular terminology. Maybe it is because (and this will age me) I was taught that the word hate is a term not to be tossed about loosely. Hate is a strong word and is backed by equally strong emotion and also generates strong emotion.

    So now with my mothers lecture out the way I admit that I am sometimes drawn into watching shows I do not like but yet seem to have the need to see them through. More often they are shows that I use to like but then they became really bad and I can not seem to let go. Sad but true……

  15. Amy -  July 26, 2013 - 7:47 am

    I’ve hate-watched a few episodes of Princesses Long Island.

  16. Amy -  July 26, 2013 - 7:38 am

    I’ve hatewatched a few episodes of Princesses Long Island.

  17. James -  July 25, 2013 - 7:58 am

    One word: Sharknado

  18. VinceP1974 -  July 25, 2013 - 7:22 am

    In the Howard Stern movie from a decade ago, they had a part in the movie having the radio producers state in astonishment that the ratings of people who hate his show are higher than the ratings of ones who like it.

  19. no one is going to get this -  July 24, 2013 - 2:01 pm

    I have a kismesistude with a lot of things, yes

  20. Bob -  July 24, 2013 - 10:57 am

    I recommend the following alternatives for linguistic purists:

    Hate-watch/read: Misscope or Osspectate
    Hate-listen: Osaudiate
    Hate-do: Osfacate

  21. Valery U -  July 24, 2013 - 10:05 am

    That’s it, they described Tumblr.
    I don’t hate-watch anything. When I see something that I dislike or hate on the TV I immediately change the channel.
    I hate-read when I’m FORCED to read something. If I’m forced to read, the book isn’t as exciting.
    I used to hate-eat these chocolate pocky sticks with coconut in them, but I grew to like them.

  22. Jazminion -  July 24, 2013 - 2:36 am

    I occasionally hate-watch those lame ghost shows like Ghost Hunters or Ghost Whisperer or whatever. I know they’re most likely all faked but I find them strangely interesting when there’s nothing else on

  23. Sarah -  July 23, 2013 - 11:27 pm

    We have a local paper that is about 20 pages long- 15 pages of cars guide and 4 pages of local ads. The only news is on the front page, yet I still can’t throw it out without flicking through it!

  24. Hate-Watching | Father Jerabek's Personal Blog -  July 23, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    [...] a blog post today about a new term that has been coined: hate-watching. Without even reading the blog article, I immediately understood what this term meant in its typical [...]

  25. Sam -  July 23, 2013 - 4:09 pm

    I don’t agree with the statement ‘Hate-watching, hate-reading, or really hate-doing of any kind, can be more generally described as a “guilty pleasure.” ‘ It may well be that it is more of an addiction … like a drug, alcohol, or gambling. Depressing and degrading, but the addicted is unable to break the cycle.

  26. ilcorago -  July 22, 2013 - 5:56 pm

    Thumbs up, Olivia.

  27. Stick War -  July 22, 2013 - 3:25 pm

    I hate-watch Whale Wars and root for the Japanese Whalers.

  28. Olivia -  July 22, 2013 - 2:02 pm

    Hashtags. Really, America? Gah.

    And “hate-watching”. Don’t we have anything better to do? Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of reading some small portion of something that I KNOW I hate, but that’s generally just to prove to myself that it is, in fact, still just as despicable as it was the last time I read some small portion of it. Or to prove the fact to someone else.

    But to read a whole book or watch a whole TV series?

    No sir.

  29. Rusty -  July 22, 2013 - 11:18 am

    I hate-watch Whale Wars and root for the Japanese Whalers.

  30. Jehanna -  July 22, 2013 - 9:14 am

    My math teacher, who also teaches English, absolutely abhors the word “hashtag” because it’s supposed to be the #number_symbol. :D

  31. tt -  July 22, 2013 - 8:17 am

    funny :)

  32. Scott -  July 22, 2013 - 7:23 am

    Hate-watch: “What About Bob?” Makes me want to punch the TV screen, but is so hilarious that I can’t stop watching. Bill Murray’s obnoxious disorder makes me so mad that I totally sympathize with Dreyfuss.

  33. TheGimp -  July 22, 2013 - 6:07 am

    I routinely hate read comment boards. I revel in the poor grammar and misspellings.

  34. ditto -  July 21, 2013 - 9:48 am

    It might be possible to hate-watch a guilty pleasure (Desperate Housewives?), but most of the time they are done exclusively.

  35. ditto -  July 21, 2013 - 9:21 am

    I agree with Terrell on the big difference between hate-watching and guilty pleasure. They are not the same action framed around a different value. I hate-watched Heroes and True Blood as the writing took a tailspin into absurdity. I didn’t enjoy it at all, but felt some loyalty to the shows/characters to either give it a chance to improve or at least endure to the end.
    However, a guilty pleasure would be more like Rupaul’s Drag Race or Big Brother. I genuinely enjoy watching it, but don’t expect others to understand why. A guilty pleasure may be embarrassing to admit, but still a pleasant experience.

  36. Dawn -  July 21, 2013 - 7:52 am

    I hate-watch most everything my husband chooses just to be able to spend time with him. He usually watches some lame anime show and I play on my laptop but find myself asking questions about things I have missed even though I hate anime.

    I am an avid reader and would like to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed every book I have ever read but that would be an untruth, I actually hate-read The Lord of the Rings. I loved the Hobbit and all the LOTR movies but the book was just too dull for the most part. I even found myself skipping ahead to more interesting parts. (Now that I have admitted it I feel ashamed, after all it is suppose to be a classic right?)

  37. Cultjunky -  July 20, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    I don’t hate-watch, I know where the off button is, however, I’m sometimes tempted to hate-watch a certain soap opera, just to be part of a conversation at work. I’m not sure if that would qualify as hate-watching though, as on the rare occasion I have, I get a deep sense of self loathing, which I suppose would be hate-myselfing.

  38. ilcorago -  July 20, 2013 - 7:08 pm

    Aside from that, there’s a fine line between “hate watching” and “guilty pleasure.”

  39. ilcorago -  July 20, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    How can you “watch hours and hours of a TV show in a very short time?” Speed-watching?

  40. Evie -  July 20, 2013 - 8:46 am

    I hate-listen only because I am curious about, and want to know, the other side of the equation. It is hard to be informed without getting information from the source.

  41. kusnendar -  July 19, 2013 - 10:39 pm

    I like Watch News and Sport.. it all useful for me

  42. Chuck -  July 19, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    I had never heard the term, hate-watching, but I find it funny because about six – seven years ago I remember the term hate-f**king becoming popular.

  43. Turtle -  July 19, 2013 - 10:45 am

    I hate-watch Dora, Diego, and Barney.

  44. Virgil -  July 19, 2013 - 4:58 am

    It makes an odd kind of sense. We embraced “speed-reading”, “speed-walking”, “speed-eating”, etc. without fuss. Everybody knows what a “Bushism” and a “Quayleism” are. “Sequel” led to “prequel” easily enough.

    English speakers don’t seem to have any problem with adding prefixes and suffixes if it suits their purposes. And the marketing industry might well collapse if we banned -arama’s, -tastic’s, and -palooza’s.

  45. Lucy -  July 19, 2013 - 3:35 am

    I used to watch Glee until my Tivo box stopped taping it. It was a good thing too because the most of the actors were annoying (coughrachelcoughblane) and the songs were really bad! The only good singers were Mercedes, Quin and Santana.

  46. Nancy -  July 18, 2013 - 11:46 pm

    I hate-watch True Blood. It started out so good, I just keep watching in the hopes that it might get better… I think I know the answer to that…

  47. Neo -  July 18, 2013 - 10:11 pm

    I hate-read Doonesbury, which is just consistently unfunny, leftist propaganda, but I’m hooked on reading just to see how far skewed each cartoon can be from reality…

  48. Hamood -  July 18, 2013 - 4:29 pm

    I sometimes hate-watch Bollywood films whenever my wife sits down to watch one. I just love to loath the tacky, over-dramatized and (in 90 percent of the cases) borrowed screenplay that charachterizes Bollywood flicks. Its a whole genre in itself.

  49. Oleg -  July 18, 2013 - 1:33 pm

    I work in a publishing house (non-English one) as and editor and a translator. A part of my job is to make reviews of books, whether they are worth translating and publishing. So every time I’m not so much reading them than hate-reading and hate-browsing them, and after this the only thing I do to recover (besides playing computer games of course) is binge-watching shows like Myth Busters or Big Bang Theory etc.

  50. victoria -  July 18, 2013 - 12:49 pm

    The book The Jane Austen Book Club. I hated, hated, hated it, but I felt like I had to finish it to give it a chance to redeem itself, in the same way a lot of people will stick with a movie to wait for the good part to show up. Sometimes there is no good part. I hate-read that book.

  51. Terrell -  July 18, 2013 - 9:22 am

    I disagree with the closing statements about guilty pleasures–the term cannot be used to generally describe any hate- that an individual indulges in, for the simple fact that a guilty pleasure (in a nut shell) is something that one enjoys, but does not exactly announce or proclaim to his/her peers or family.

    For example, it is 2013 and I enjoy listening to the Spice Girls every morning. I will not share this with my friends at all, but may share with some people who DO listen to the group, as I will feel unjudged by them. But for me to hate-listen to the Spice Girls, would be for me to publically showcase my distaste for the 90′s British Pop group in front of friends/family, but also tune in their music, acknowledging that while I can’t stand them, I still listen to them (and don’t know why I do). It’s a contradicting act (hate-watching), as opposed to an act of concealing (guilty pleasure).

    I find this happening with Lil Wayne–I can’t stand him or his lyrics, but I tune in to his music and can sign many of his songs.

  52. Jim -  July 18, 2013 - 7:50 am

    I saw a similar word on a list of “Words for the 90′s”, irratainment. The specific example was the OJ Simpson trial, very much the Zimmerman trial of its time. Both were acquitted … is there a lesson here?

  53. Kathy -  July 18, 2013 - 2:41 am

    Honey BooBoo and Toddlers and Tiaras – the latter is just too scary, that people apparently think that’s a good way to instill values in their children (often 3 generations!).

  54. Reno Reno -  July 17, 2013 - 11:42 pm

    Dunno if his relates –
    A. Mood – there are some shows, Sons of Anarchy comes to mind, that I LOVE, right? But I cannot seem to get myself to watch any further than the 3rd season because: a) it is so gruesome, gets me distressed, it’s not the right time to be upset, and, b) I’m afraid it’s going to end. Contradictory.
    B.Reality Hurts – couldn’t watch the last season of The Wire because it was about the end of newspapers, a development I hate.
    C. Shame-Watch – Then there’s shows, like “Scandal” and “Person of Interest” that have incredibly outlandish plots, but I love them. Watching them definitely give me the feeling that I’m not as smart as I’d like to be.

  55. Mel -  July 17, 2013 - 10:14 pm

    I rarely hate-watch and I never hate-read. Why bother? There is decent entertainment to be found among the crap we’re mass-fed.
    I don’t succumb. It puts money in their pockets by giving them ratings, and they don’t deserve it.
    If we didn’t have so many negativity-evoking shows on tv, we wouldn’t spawn pop-culture terms like ‘hate-watch’.
    Turn them off, kick them off air, and escape to something that will grow you, I say. :)

  56. Maxim -  July 17, 2013 - 8:31 pm

    I do some hate-reading/watching because even if a movie or story is really bad. I want to finish it just to know what the ending was. It’s never worth it. Because chances are if the plot is very bad throughout the whole duration of the book/movie, then why would the ending be good. But I just have this driving passion to just finish it.
    @Cyberquill – I see what you mean. I do a lot of love-not-watching, because sometimes you (Me in this case) want to watch your favourite show when there is no-one at home, or at a perfect time. I right now am putting off a series that I have been wanting to watch and finish since the start of the year.

  57. Anna -  July 17, 2013 - 2:28 pm

    I hate-watch the OC. Oh, yes, it’s been over for years, but I’ve just recently stumbled upon it. All the DVDs were in my possession as quickly as I could afford them. The show drives me crazy, but I can’t stop watching it.

  58. T Dubya -  July 17, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    I must say, I love-love this thread!

  59. Deborah Weah -  July 17, 2013 - 3:57 am

    I want to learn English as part of my life.

  60. Varun -  July 16, 2013 - 11:20 pm

    Oh yes!! i ‘hate-watch’ all the time… Being Indian means that I am constantly given a choice of movies whose quality barely rises to shoe lace level. Yet, I watch most of these flicks (sometimes in HD) and derive a kind of relief by complaining and name-calling the actors and directors for the appalling quality of movies they make. I always thought that it was just a perverse tendency of mine, but now that there is a term for it- I feel much better.

  61. parfaye -  July 16, 2013 - 11:15 pm

    I totally agree with luvmonkey. Most hate watching or hate reading is hoping it will get better, like a bad book. It is an escape from reality watching something you hope will get better. Altho lately I have found myself not watching stupid reality shows that are so full of drama I can’t stand it. I don’t like drama in real life, why waste your time watching it. The same with facebook. Who really cares about the ridiculous comments people make.

  62. parfaye -  July 16, 2013 - 11:10 pm

    I totally agree with luvmonkey. Most hate watching or hate reading is hoping it will get better, like a bad book. It is an escape from reality watching something you hope will get better. Altho lately I have found myself not watching stupid reality shows that are so full of drama I can’t stand it. I don’t like drama in real life, why waste your time watching it. The same with facebook. Who really cares, really.

  63. parfaye -  July 16, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    I totally agree with luvmonkey. Most hate watching or hate reading is hoping it will get better, like a bad book. It is an escape from reality watching something you hope will get better. Altho lately I have found myself not watching stupid reality shows that are so full of drama I can’t stand it. I don’t like drama in real life, why waste your time watching it?

  64. Archon -  July 16, 2013 - 3:57 pm

    The French GCTN would ban “God”, because it’s not Dieu. The abbreviation “app”, for application would work as well in French as English, yet they insist on “appli.”

  65. Eliza -  July 16, 2013 - 2:54 pm

    I have a hate-crush on one of my Facebook friends. Most of what she posts is so inane and antithetical to everything I care about that I end up Facebook-stalking her just to see what silliness I may have missed.

  66. Dk Raven -  July 16, 2013 - 2:19 pm

    Interesting that the link says, “How did the hate- suffix grow so quickly?”

    Has our definition of “suffix” changed as well?

  67. Shannon Brook -  July 16, 2013 - 2:19 am

    My top 5 ‘hate watch’ shows:
    1. Keeping up with the Kardashians.
    2. Married to Jonas.
    3. Toddlers and Tiaras.
    4. Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
    5. Long Island Medium.

  68. GingerlyWaysIsBack -  July 11, 2013 - 10:43 am

    I’ve never heard the term hate watching..although very familiar with it as i realize i do it.. we do it to remind ourselves who we are…we affirm what we don’t like which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves based on what makes us happy.. so hate watching will prevail… it’s about making affirmations about our judgments as we live our lives….
    man, people are weird

  69. MentalObsession -  July 8, 2013 - 3:03 pm

    Trichotillomania is the obsessive pulling out of one’s own hair. It is usually found in pubescent girls and can last a lifetime, or until the sufferer becomes totally bald and when the hair no longer grows back. It is not so rare as you might think.

    No one wants to be doing it, but, it has it’s own strange and grotesque attraction about which the person feels tremendous guilt and self loathing… but they can’t seem to stop themselves… certainly hate-doing.

  70. Hebeestie Wallopman -  July 7, 2013 - 6:33 pm

    If I dislike something, I stop doing it, and cut it out of my life entirely, what sense is there is allowing something to take up your time and thoughts when you dislike it?

  71. Cyberquill -  July 7, 2013 - 5:46 am

    Besides hate-watching, there’s also the concept of love-not-watching, which means to abstain from watching TV shows one likes.

  72. Luis -  July 7, 2013 - 4:33 am

    Hate-reading is but sanctioned by the occasionally obnoxious discipline of getting to the last page of good literature. When a reputed author or trusted friend recommends a bad book you’re (I’m) doomed.

  73. Helen -  July 6, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    I hate-watch Say Yes to the Dress. I guess it makes me feel better about myself knowing that I would not waste $10k on a dress to wear one day. Or I wouldn’t tell a bride that she looks awful in a dress that she clearly loves.

  74. Bill -  July 6, 2013 - 3:20 pm

    Yes- I do what this article calls ‘hate watch’. Never hate read or ??? I would like to inject a better explanation to such wasted time(Hate-watch), how about “ESCAPISM” ? A time old tradition of losing yourself in activity that
    takes you away from reality or a means of unwinding and forgetting or putting aside the troubles or realties of your life. By focusing on a screen and listening to voices and sounds that have be written and produced in such a way as to keep you coming back, as is the case with series produced and no more “wait until next’s weeks episode” to see what happens next.
    Hurraw hurray for introducing a NEW TERMINOLOGY to a long list of ways for us to waste valuable time that may or may not be spent on more
    life fulfilling things.
    I believe this (hate-watching) could be more of a symptom to such things as boredom or even depression and I as one of them at least know what I am doing and also find it to be an addictive activity, one in which most
    people or parents would tend to divert their children from doing.
    Well there’s my 2 cents worth.

  75. luvmonkey -  July 6, 2013 - 2:00 pm

    I hate-watch reality shows when there is nothing else on. Out of curiosity, is it still considered hate-reading if you are trying to see if the book gets any better? Like, you’re halfway through and there have been about ten instances where you’ve wanted to fling the book across the room but you muster through because SURELY nothing this terrible could have made it into print without some surprise awesome ending that made it all worth your time, amirite?

  76. bholland -  July 6, 2013 - 11:33 am

    Yes, Bubba, you are exactly right. I have had the exact same experience: feeling a sense of frustration by not being disappointed. Sounds as if the two sensations contradict themselves.

  77. Bubba -  July 6, 2013 - 7:42 am

    There is a particularly bad comic strip in my local paper. It’s level of humor is loathsome, it’s artwork is abysmal and yet I find that I cannot NOT read it. Perhaps I am hoping that it may have somehow risen out of the dregs, but probably more to assure myself that, yes, it is STILL bad!… I am yet to be disappointed.


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