Innovations and new technology always brings with it new terminologies and new vocabularies but they can also reinvent definitions for existing words. In this article we look at six words the internet reinvented.
Friend was used as a verb as early as the 13th century, but it fell out of use until recently. The popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook gave the verb friend new meaning. If you add someone to your social network, you are friending that lucky soul. Removing someone from your network can be called unfriending. Unfriend is another word that’s existed in English since the 13th century when it was used as a noun to mean “an enemy.”
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who posts deliberately antagonizing comments. Though the term troll evokes the ugly creatures featured in Scandinavian folklore, the origin of Internet trolling is far likelier from an Old French term that was used in the context of fishing. On the water, a troll is a lure used to bait fish. Perhaps the best advice for dealing with trolls is offered by the hacktivist group Anonymous: “Do not argue with trolls–it means they win.”
While the noun address has been used by English speakers since the 1400s, the sense of “the place or the name of the place where a person, organization, or the like is located” did not surface until the 1600s. In the 1940s, a new technological sense of address emerged, making way for the introduction of such compounds as email address, web address, and IP address, all pointing to virtual locations.
When surf first entered English in the 1600s, it referred to waves or the movement of waves. The late 1800s saw a new sense of the word: “to ride or be carried on the breaking crest of a wave, esp. using a surfboard.” In the 1980s this sense was metaphorically extended to apply to channel-surfing on cable television. By the early ’90s, this sense was further extended to the Internet. However, 20 years later, this term has lost its hipness, and Internet users today might opt for a more tongue-in-check expression such as cyberloafing.
If you block someone on a social network, you make various traces of your online presence invisible to that person so that he or she cannot interact with you. This sense only came about recently, though English speakers have been blocking since the 16th century. Block came to English directly from the Old French block meaning “log.” The noun sense of block existed in English over 200 years before the verb came along.