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Trolling’s surprising origins in fishing

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400 years ago, trolls searched the dark forests of Scandinavia for lost people, to hit them on the head with trees, to retreat to the depths of their burrows and to eat. Now they’re searching the dark forests of social media for lost posters to goad them with inflammatory comments, dragging them into the depths of a pointless passionate argument and enraging them for as long as possible. Although these two characters have a lot in common, the term is trolling surprisingly has no clear etymological connection to Norse mythology. Despite compelling and controversial scientific counterarguments like this, the modern definition of troll actually comes to us more directly from the world of fishing.

The mythological and marine trolling both have their roots in random, casual violence: the old French term for hunting trolley, meaning “wandering about looking for something to kill” or “going hunting for game without any specific purpose”. Soon this casual hunting style gained a more popular and specific meaning in the world of fishing, encouraging a patient and meandering approach. Since the 16th century trolling has described a process in which one or more baited hooks are slowly pulled through the water, either by hanging from the end of a slow-moving boat or by a person slowly wrapping the line. Keeping the lure in motion gives it the appearance of life, making it a much more attractive option for fish. The method has become an industry standard and is used commercially and recreationally.

This sense of baiting carried the word’s meaning into the 21st century, where it has been used to describe similar behavior in decoy military operations and most commonly on the Internet. In the early days of the Internet in 1990, a Usenet community of folklore enthusiasts called alt.folklore.urban (AFU) adapted the process to identify inexperienced “newbies” in the group. AFU veterans began posting intentionally garbled quotes or hackneyed, obvious topics that only new users would seriously reply to. They called this process “trolling,” and the metaphorical resemblance to fishing was strong. Experts breathed life into these dead subjects by raising them with mock seriousness. As soon as the unsuspecting innocents watched, they were hooked; The experts could do whatever they wanted with it.

As with most things on the internet, this process soon escalated into the inconvenience – the trolling we know today. The method developed at AFU for testing community literacy through affected innocence has been used increasingly aggressively, not only to distinguish between academic experts and amateurs, but to probe and manipulate people’s understanding of life. Trolling expanded from gatekeeping a particular community of knowledge to gatekeeping the ability to freely share one’s thoughts online. And although the term comes more from the baiting process of fishing, it has the mythological undertones of troll– an ugly and bloodthirsty humanoid vagabond who roams the wilderness to feast on the innocent – ​​gave the term a new semantic meaning. For our Monday puzzle, I wanted a simple clue that captures both tribes of trolland leaves us with, “Try to lure into an uncomfortable conflict.”

Play the rest of Tuesday’s crossword and stay up to date with the puzzles of the week.

https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/05/trollings-surprising-origins-in-fishing/629784/?utm_source=feed Trolling’s surprising origins in fishing

Jessica MacLeish

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