Top 10 Words the Internet Has Given the English Language

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It’s a great reminder of how messily human the stories behind even our sleekest creations are – not to mention delightful curiosities in their own right.


1. Avatar

This word for our digital incarnations has a mysterious origin to it, beginning with the Sanskrit term avatara, that is often used to describe the descent of a god from the heavens into an earthly form. Arriving in the English dictionary sometime in late 18th century, via Hindi, the term largely preserved its mystical meaning until Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash popularized it in a technological sense.

Fusing notions of virtual world-building and incarnation, it’s the perfect emblem of computers as a portal to a new species of experience.

There are so many online avatar/character to pick from, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Indeed, it’s also hard to even find them.

As a writer, I like to picture my characters on paper, and since I can’t draw anything, I turn to these nifty tools to make my characters literally come to life.


2. Hashtags

In 1920s America, the # sign was used as a shorthand for weight in pounds (and they still call it the pound sign). It was first brought to pubic usage thanks to its adoption by telephone engineers at Bell Labs in the 1960s – and if you’re looking to sound clever, you could call it an “octothorpe”, the  term coined at Bell to describe it. It’s on Twitter, though, that hashtags have really come into their own, serving as a kind of function code for social interaction #Top10List.

If you have been on Twitter or Google+, you may have already used it. To put it simply, a hash tag is simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common theme and to begin a conversing. For example, if you search on #SUSANBOYLE, you’ll get a list of tweets related to the Britain’s Got Talent Star. What you won’t get are tweets that say “I lost my phone yesterday” because “lost” isn’t preceded by the hash tag. Hashtags believed to have originated on Twitter but, interestingly enough, it is not just Twitter function. Some believe it began when the broken plane luckily landed in the Hudson River in early 2009, some Twitter user wrote a post and added #flight1549 to it. I have no idea who this person is, but somebody else would have read it and when he wrote something about the event,  he added #flight1549 to his tweet and so the domino effect ensued. For something like this, where tweets would have been flying fast and furiously, it wouldn’t have taken long for this hash tag to go viral and suddenly thousands of people posting about it would have added it to their tweets as well. Then, if you wanted info on the situation, you could do a search on “#flight1549” and see everything that people had written about it.


3. Scunthorpe problems
Scunthorpe problems

Computing can be as much combat as collaboration between people and machines, and the Scunthorpe problem is a perfect example. The Scunthorpe Problem arise when search engines create a filter to exclude the use of some words and because the word Scunthorpe contains a very certain word, this prevents residents of Scunthorpe from opening accounts and from people who were searching for businesses in Scunthorpe from finding them. Similar issues were found in Penistone in Yorkshire, Lightwater in Surrey and Clitheroe in Lancashire.


4. Trolling

Interrnet trolling can be defined as the anti-social act of causing of interpersonal conflict and shock-value controversy online.

As you’ve probably already know, there are people lurking all over the web who find pure joy in humiliating and attacking others. Tapping the expertise of psychologists and experts, it offers solid reasons why this scourge of the Internet continues.

We all like to think that most people mean well, and are inherently good. Even if that’s true, studies show us instances where even some good people can quickly turn bad, all because of a variety of situations related to mob behavior.

When people think they can stay anonymous, they do things they otherwise would not do.  When conversations are not taking place in real time, some people feel like they can quickly dash off a negative comment and then immediately escape altogether. And when people get all wrapped up in their narcissism and rebelliousness, they might be more likely to pick on others they don’t even know.


5. Memes

Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as a shortening of the Ancient Greek term mimeme (“an imitated thing”). He designed his new word to sound like “gene”, signifying a unit of cultural transmission. Little did he know that his term would become one of the most iconic of online phenomena, embodying the capacity of the internet to itself act as a kind of gene-pool for thoughts and beliefs – and for infectious, endlessly ingenious slices of time-wasting.


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