Gleeful social media labor right along with Kate

Britons and tourists cheer outside Buckingham Palace as the announcement of the birth of William and Kate's son is placed on an easel. It notes that mother and child are doing well.
Britons and tourists cheer outside Buckingham Palace as the announcement of the birth of William and Kate's son is placed on an easel. It notes that mother and child are doing well. (JOHN STILLWELL / AP, Pool)
Posted: July 24, 2013

In the end it was, as always, a woman and her child, and the effort to deliver. But, for the circus/playground/peanut gallery of the social media, the labor of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was an orgy of fact-mongering, speculation, and hijinks of all sorts. And social media used the occasion to play host to a huge, silly world party.

Lightning-fast Twitter was a fine place to follow the timeline of events, starting from the announcement about 2 a.m. (Philly time) from Peter Hunt of the BBC that "the Duchess of Cambridge is in labour and has gone to give birth at the private Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital in London. #RoyalBaby."

"It's Happening! Here Comes the Royal Baby!" brayed the Daily Beast. A flood erupted of unfortunately worded headlines, including "Kate Middleton Is In Labour - It's the moment we've all been waiting for," and so forth. By noon, #RoyalBaby was the top Twitter trending topic worldwide and in Philadelphia. By midday, #RoyalBaby, #RoyalBabyWatch, #KateMiddleton,   and, yes, #RoyalBabyName were rocketing about the Twitterverse like photons in a hall of mirrors.

Babies take exactly as long as they take, and so, most of the afternoon, there wasn't much to talk about. A momentary frisson rippled about 2 p.m. Philly time as Queen Elizabeth II took a limo to Buckingham Palace to await news. (The palace gives the official word, posted on a gilt easel in the forecourt.)

Venues such as CNN and BBC had experts on, talking about any- and everything royal, past royal births, royal fashions, lines of succession. We learned why it's called the Lindo Wing (named after Frank Charles Lindo, a businessman), and how much Kate's stay was likely to run her (about £12,000, or about $18,399.67). The trivia-drizzle drove Twitter and Facebook crazy (Grace Dent tweeted that "never, never before has so much utter twaddle been televised") - and people posted and tweeted about the craziness, which added to the craziness. They did silly things ( Bec@Brocklesnitch: "WHAT DOES THE ROYAL BABY THINK WILL HAPPEN AT THE END OF BREAKING BAD") and made fun of themselves doing silly things.

You could follow any of a number of live cameras outside St. Mary's. You could learn a lot about a lot. It was good to be reminded, it always is, that 370,000 women go through labor and childbirth every day on this planet. The BBC knew this: "We're live, as women from around the world share their experiences of #childbirth. Listen here: #royalbaby."

There was serious disputation. Lauren Collins of the New Yorker said this is all nonsense, but Alyssa Rosenberg said no, it's important. But the fun stuff was more fun. As of midday, more than 2 million folks had placed bets on weight, time of birth, gender (Barnaby Edwards: "BREAKING NEWS: Palace insider reveals that the royal baby will almost certainly be a boy or a girl"), and, above all, the royal name.

Name-speculation reached brain-splattering pitch (Caroline Rhea: "Wouldn't it be weird if they named the baby Honey Boo Boo? #RoyalBaby") (@NMSyria: "The #RoyalBaby to be named Qatar Airways after landmark sponsorship deal"). In a land of 9,000 bookies, odds on girl names (leaders: Alexandra at 5-2 and Charlotte, 13-2; for boys, George, 15-2, and James, 11-1) were furnished, and dozens of Web pages sprang up with lists, image galleries (many venues "tracked" Kate's baby bump over time), and games. From E!Online: "what will Prince William & Kate Middleton name the #royalbaby? Vote here!";. Why not play?

As if the Web were a white-sand electronic beach, millions did play. Lots of pics and animations of The Lion King, with daddy lion Mufasa holding up Simba, his new son, to the streaming daylight. Lots of puns ("Heir it comes!" - Salon) and jests (Tiarnan Boyle: "Everyone seems to be shocked by Kate Middleton going into labour, it has been 9 months so I'm not surprised #babymania #boyorgirl"). Political humor abounded (@Queen_UK: "Text from Tony Blair: 'I know what Kate is going through: I too found it hugely frustrating being in labour' ").

Snarky and silly, but the general sense, rising above the dust-filled valley, was of a well-behaved melee.

And about 3:30 p.m. Philly time, word came, and great were the relief and joy. Zap2It crowed: "The #RoyalBabyWatch is over!" Mia Farrow gave it three exclamation points: "It's a boy!!!" Twitter was a forest of exclamation points! Even Energy Works (?!) had to get in on it: "Congratulations to Prince William and Kate Middleton on their new baby boy!" (Doesn't that make you want to order up a home energy assessment?)

Baby name suggestions exploded. Michael. Rupert. Colin. Albert. . . .

It was moving to consider that the world was watching as, somewhere far away, a woman was working to admit a new life into the light - along with 370,000 of her sisters all over the world. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, saw it through yesterday. To her, and to all mothers who go through this, well done. Or #welldone!!!

Contact John Timpane at 215-854-4406 or, or follow on Twitter, @jtimpane.

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