Etymology of Troll

Although most people associate this term with characters from Scandinavian mythology (trolls), its etymology actually has to do with a fishing technique, given the assimilation that is made between “catching” a fish and “fishing.” an Internet user using direct confrontation, insult and humiliation as bait. The aforementioned fishing technique, called trolling, consists of dragging a bait from a boat at slow speed. It is, for example, the one used with tuna.

Already in 1972, the use of the expression “trolling” was detected among American fighter pilots stationed in Vietnam, to refer to carrying out actions to drag their Soviet or North Vietnamese counterparts to fight against them where it was favorable to the Americans. In other words: they provoked them.

Some authors claim that there was already talk of trolls in the modern sense of the term on the boards of the early eighties, although it is something that is not shared by all scholars. The most commonly accepted theory points to an adoption of the term as it is known today, in Internet photos in the early 1990s.

Curiously, and although the etymology has nothing to do with mythological beings as we have indicated before, due to the homonym, the Internet troll has ended up assimilated to the image of the mythological troll. Since 2010 or so, we have also witnessed the expansion in the use of the term, as well as the popularization of the verb to troll, implying the actions of this actor, applying even outside the online sphere. Thus, now we can also talk about “a troll” or someone who “trolls” in reference to that person who deceives another person with the aim of laughing at him or her and/or making him or her appear socially visible.

The troll does not hesitate to openly offend, presenting behavior that we could describe as childish.

The Internet brings out the worst in some people, who behave like real savages, speaking in terms of debate and dialectics, sowing chaos, impersonating other people, deceiving and insulting. They are the so-called “trolls”. In the territory of the Internet, it includes that Internet user who only seeks to sow trouble in online forums, whether for a personal reason or directed/motivated by a political and/or social objective. It is a behavior that has found its place on the Internet, sheltering itself in the anonymity provided by the Internet, and that allows these madmen to carry out their task without endangering their real identity.

What we are dealing with here is gratuitous insult and provocation. Hence, the Internet maxim “don’t feed the troll”, which comes to ask other Internet users – the “normal” ones who are going to create a constructive Internet or, if not, fight for understandable reasons – that they do not get into a verbal conflict with the troll, since this is what they are looking for.

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