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Internet Lingo



arachnerd -- A person who spends way too much time either surfing the Web or fussing with his or her home page.

avatar -- 1. Among people working on virtual reality and cyberspace interfaces, an "avatar" is an icon or representation of a user in a shared virtual reality. The term is sometimes used on MUDs. 2. root, superuser. There are quite a few Unix machines on which the name of the superuser account is `avatar' rather than `root'. This quirk was originated by a CMU hacker who disliked the term `superuser', and was propagated through an ex-CMU hacker at Tektronix.


BCNU -- Used in email message to stand for "be seein' you"

bounce -- What your email does when it cannot get to its recipient -- it bounces back to you (unless it goes off into the ether, never to be found again. )

bozon -- A unit of stupidity and cluelessness. "I gave up reading Usenet newsgroups because of the high bozon count."

BTW-- Used in an email message to stand for "by the way."

burble -- Similar to flame (to post a message intended to insult and provoke), except that the "burbler" is totally clueless and ineffectual. It comes from Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem, Jabberwocky-- (


Century-21 site -- A Web site that has moved to a new location and now contains only a link to the new address.

chad -- 1. The tiny bits of paper left over from punching data cards. Also called computer confetti or keypunch droppings. 2. The perforated strips of computer paper, after they have been separated from a printout.

chaingang -- A group of homepages which mainly merely link to each other.

chip jewelry -- An obsolete or obsolescent computer (i.e, your computer today or next month) ready or almost ready to be discarded or cannibalized for computer-chip tie pins or earrings. When Intel's new MMX Pentium processor begins turning up in computers in 1997, it will both make the hearts of cybernauts go pitterpat and begin to transform today's state-of-the-art PCs into just another batch of chip jewelry.

chrome -- Hacker slang for splashy program features that attract attention but do little or nothing to make the program more useful or more powerful. "Those little animations in Windows 95 are cool, but they're really just chrome."

clickstreams -- The virtual paths a person takes as they surf the World Wide Web.

cobweb page -- A Web page that hasn't been updated in a long time.

cookie -- information saved on a client's hard drive by a server during a web site visit. This information usually contains details about the client's visit to the web site, such as which links were followed and how long the client stayed at the web site.

compunications -- Any form of computer-based communication, including email, fax, and voice mail.

cracker -- someone who illegally gains access to a computer system and does damage to specific files or introduces a virus into the system

craplet -- A poorly designed, aesthetically unpleasing, or just generally useless Java applet.

cyber -- Deprecated. A prefix used by newbies and lamers to describe internet related topics, such as "cyberspace".

cybercafe -- Establishment with both coffee and internet access. Trendy in some places, unknown in others. (An example: Cafe Online in Chapel Hill.)

cyberpunk -- originally a cultural sub-genre of science fiction taking place in a not-so-distant, dystopian, over-industrialized society. The term has evolved into a cultural label encompassing many different kinds of human, machine, and punk attitudes. It includes clothing and lifestyle choices as well. See cyberspace.

cyberstyle -- The writing style used in most online communications. This style is characterized by one or more of the following traits: frequent use of abbreviations, acronyms, and jargon; "street" slang (e.g., using "cuz" instead of "because"); typos, misspelled words, and a general inattention to grammar and sentence structure; a rambling, stream-of-consciousness style.


daemon droppings -- The extra lines and codes that are added by mailer daemons to a failed email message. This soiled message is then returned to the sender for scatalogical examination to determine the problem.

dead tree edition - The printed version of a newsletter or other document that is published in both printed and electronic editions.

dirt road -- A frustratingly slow Web connection. "Geez, that GIF still hasn't loaded yet? The @#$%&! server must be on a dirt road."

disk dancers -- Kids who collect the ubiquitous America Online disks. They install the software, use up the free time, and then move on to another disk.

domain dropping - Trying to impress someone by giving them your hippest email address, even if it isn't where you usually get your email. "Stan is such a domain dropper; he always gives out his Well address, but he gets his email on AOL."

dot - When you want to impress the net veterans you meet at parties, say "dot" instead of "period, "for example--"My address is john at site dot domain dot com."


egosurfing --The searching of databases, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, wire services, research papers and new books for your own name. Egosurfing is the crack cocaine of the cognoscenti, each "hit" producing yelps of pleasure and mounting delirium.

electronic sweatshop -- A workplace in which managers use technology to monitor individual productivity. The same computers on which employees perform such routine tasks as making airline reservations or recording credit card purchases can tell the boss who is swift and who is poky. Sweatshop workers of old lived at risk of heatstroke; today, they prosper or perish by keystroke.

emotags -- Mock HTML tags used in writing to indicate emotional states. "<FLAME>That guy on the mailing list is the rudest jerk I've ever had the misfortune to deal with.</FLAME>"

emoticons -- Visual cues for expressing emotions in email or newsgroup postings. Common variations include happy or smiley faces :-) and sad faces :-( as viewed from the side. See :-)

exponential growth -- A term mathematicians use to describe the growth of the Internet. The Internet has doubled in size approximately each year.


face time -- Time spent interacting with someone in person, rather than via email or some other electronic link.

F2F -- Stands for "face to face," and refers to when you actually meet face to face people you have been corresponding with through email or other parts of the Internet

film at 11-- A sarcastic reaction to an overdone argument--For example-- "Imminent death of the Net predicted. Film at 11."

flaming -- sending angry and sometimes abusive messages by email or posting them on a discussion forum. (Noun form is flames--Indignant email responses.)

flame war --When an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debaters, rather than discussion of their positions. A heated exchange.

flood -- To render a Web page unreadable because of a poorly chosen background image. "I had to bail out of that page because the background was flooded with some butt-ugly tartan." Also known as a wrackground image.

followup -- A Usenet posting that is a response to an earlier message.

fortune cookie -- An inane/witty/profound comment that can be found on the Net.

for your information (FYI) -- "A subseries of RFCs that are not technical standards or description of protocols. FYI convey general information about topics related to TCP/IP or the Internet. See also-- Request For Comments, STD." (Source-- RFC 1392)

four-oh-four or 404 -- Used to describe a person who is clueless. This comes from the Netscape error message, "404 Not Found. The requested URL was not found on this server." Usage example: "Don't ask Lester for help with this problem; he's really 404, man."

fritterware -- Feature-ladened software that seduces people into spending inordinate amounts of time tweaking various options for only marginal gains in productivity.


geek-- The Webster dictionary defines Geek as "a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake." A geek is someone who spends time being "social" on a computer. This could mean chatting on irc or icb, playing multi-user games, posting to, or even writing shareware. Someone who just uses their computer for work, but doesn't spend their free time "online" is not a geek. Most geeks are technically adept and have a great love of computers, but not all geeks are programming wizards. Some just know enough unix to read mail and telnet out to their favorite MUD. Geek can also be used as a verb. " To geek" is to sit online and read mail, news, chat, and otherwise waste time in front of a keyboard. This "geeking" often consumes many hours, even if the intention was to "just log in and check my mail." Some would say this time would be better spent being social in person or even just being curled up in a sunbeam. See also the Geek Code at gopher:// and Code of the Geeks (version 3.1) at

geekosphere -- The area surrounding one's computer where trinkets, personal mementos, toys and "monitor pets" are displayed.

get a life -- What to say to somebody who has, perhaps, been spending a wee bit too much time in front of a computer.

glass-roots campaign -- A grass-roots campaign that uses the Internet as its primary means of organization and action. (The "glass" part comes from the glass fibers used in the fiber-optic cables that make up much of the Internet's backbone.)

go Cyrillic -- When a computer display becomes corrupted and its text is unreadable.

grammer slack -- The tolerance exhibited by most Internet users for small spelling and grammar errors. (And yes, we know that "grammer" is spelled incorrectly!)

graybar land -- The place you go to while staring at the computer screen during a long operation. The phrase comes from watching the (usually) gray progress bar inch across the screen.

gronk -- The sound made by many floppy disk drives.

guru -- A more experienced user who helps a newer user (ie, a newbie).

hit-and-run page -- A Web page that gets a huge number of hits and then disappears a week later. Most hit-and-run pages contain pornographic material and they get shut down once the Web site's administrators figure out why their network has slowed to a crawl.


hacker -- The term hacker tends to refer to the more programming intense set of the geek crowd. However the term is overused in the popular media, and therefore is no longer much used among "real geeks". Hacker also has negative connotations related to cracking or illegally obtaining access to computers and accounts. However, most self-proclaimed hackers who illegally gain access to private computers do not do any damage to the computers, but are only interested in testing their skills. (see Cracker)

handshake -- Two modems trying to connect first do this to agree on how to transfer data.

hourglass mode -- Waiting endlessly and helplessly for an expected action to take place. From the hourglass icon used by Microsoft Windows to indicate that the system is busy and that you won't be able to do anything until it's finished.


IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) -- A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum, IMHO indicates that the writer is aware that they are expressing a debatable view, probably on a subject already under discussion. One of many such shorthands in common use online, especially in discussion forums.

intranet -- A miniature, localized version of the Internet which is usually contained on one server and which allows limited access to a select group of people, generally employees of a particular company.

Internet worm -- A program designed to travel across the Internet and replicate itself endlessly. When a student released the Internet worm, it made the Internet and many attached computers useless for hours.


jargon -- The language used within a particular field. For example, this is as list of Internet jargon

Javlovian -- An automatic response that causes marketing types to come up with only cute, coffee-related names for Java-based products (e.g., Cafe, Roaster, Java Beans, Latte, ad nauseum).

JOOTT (acronym) -- Just One Of Those Things. An unexplained computer problem that resolves itself over time or just by rebooting the machine.

JPIG -- A Web page that takes forever to load because it's either jammed to the hilt with graphics or because it contains one or two really large images. See also vanity plate.


keyboard plaque (n.) -- The dirt, dust, and other grime that accumulates on computer keyboards.


lamer -- A user who behaves in a stupid or uneducated manner, a description often applied to new Internet users. (See also newbies. )

LBJ -- Light bulb joke. There is a canonical list of LBJs available via Usenet or the Internet.

list Nazi -- A mailing list subscriber who makes it a point to flame other list members for even the slightest violations of Net, email, or mailing list etiquette.

low-bandwidth -- A conversation lacking in useful, informative, or intelligent content. "I'm getting together with the PR people in 15 minutes for yet another low-bandwidth meeting."

lurk-- Following a newsgroup or sitting on an IRC channel and reading the messages without saying anything, as if you were 'lurking in the shadows' staying out of sight.


macarena page -- A web page capitalizing on a current fad. They are usually full of fluff and have a short life expectancy.

meatspace -- The flesh-and-blood real world; the opposite of cyberspace.

mouse potato -- The online generation's answer to the couch potato. A computer addict, pale of complexion and intense of mien, a species replicating ever faster in the techno-loam of modern society. A mouse potato clings to a computer as persistently as a couch potato roots before a television set. Only one means is known for freeing a mouse from a mouse potato's hand--replacing it with a trackball.

MUD -- A MUD (Multiple User Dimension, Multiple User Dungeon, or Multiple User Dialogue) is a computer program which users can log into and explore. Each user takes control of a computerized persona/avatar/incarnation/character. You can walk around, chat with other characters, explore dangerous monster-infested areas, solve puzzles, and even create your very own rooms, descriptions and items. You can also get lost or confused if you jump right in, so be sure to read this document before starting. (One kind of MUD is a MOO, which stands for Mud, Object Oriented and is so far only a text-based environment through which users interact.)

multimediocrity -- A boring, poorly put-together CD-ROM. ("57,000 Shareware Programs for the Low, Low Price of Just 99 cents!")


NASCII art - Porno images rendered in simple ASCII text.

netspeak -- The special argot of the Internet. See spamming, mouse potato, webmaster. Netspeak is not to be confused with newspeak, an Orwellian language that means the opposite of its literal meaning, or with Newtspeak, an Orwellian language that means the opposite of its literal meaning.

nerd -- A nerd is a person with no social skills, usually obsessed with science or technology (geek is more computer specific). Nerds are known for their pocket protectors, taped glasses, and plaid shirts. Many nerds are also geeks, using the net as a safe screen to hide behind while practicing their social skills. However they rarely come out to be seen in person at live geek events, so there is little reason to be concerned.

Netiquette -- "A pun on `etiquette' referring to proper behavior on a network." (Source-- RFC 1392)

Netizen -- Derived from the term citizen, referring to a citizen of the Internet, or someone who uses networked resources. The term connotes civic responsibility and participation.

Netois -- Net patois. The unique language and vernacular found on the Internet. See burble, egosurfing, mouse potato, nymrod, Outernet, and user eye-D.

Net Police -- People who think it's their duty to impose their standards on everyone who posts.

newbies -- New users of the Internet.

nooksurfer -- A person who frequents only a limited number of Internet sites.

nomepage -- A homepage with little or no content -- perhaps an image of the person's pet and a few links to their favorite tv show, but nothing original and not much of anything else.

nymrod -- A person who insists on turning every multi-word term into an acronym.


OB, OBJ -- Obligatory joke, in addition to serious content of a message.

off the grid -- A euphemism for being off the Net. ("Sorry I didn't email you last week; I was off the grid in Mexico.") In the past, this expression has been used to refer to someone who lives in a rural area without running water, electricity, or phone service.

online -- Connected to a computer network.

one-link wonder -- A Web page that contains only a single useful link.

open-collar worker -- A telecommuter or other person who works at home. Unlike a blue-collar worker or a white-collar worker, an open-collar worker need not dress for success--or even dress at all, for that matter, if he or she is sufficiently warmed by the friendly glow of the computer monitor. The open collar now beckons to Americans just as open spaces once called to an earlier set of pioneers dressed in their skins.

Outernet -- The traditional (i.e., non-Internet) media, including magazines, newspapers, books, television, and movies.


paster boy -- A person who copies other peoples' HTML source code and pastes it into their own Web page to make himself/herself look like an HTML wizard.

PEBCAK -- Tech support acronym for "Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard." In other words, the only thing wrong with the computer is the clueless individual who's using it.

powerstripping -- Downloading all the Netscape plug-ins just to brag that you have them --because the odds are many of them, beta test versions at best, either won't work or will crash you system.


read-only user -- A person who uses the Internet exclusively for reading Web pages, email, and newsgroups instead of creating their own content.

retroware -- A software program that's two or three versions earlier than the current version. Many people are returning to these older versions because they're familiar, fast, and free of the rampant "featuritis" that characterizes most modern programs.

ROM brain -- A person who refuses to accept input and ideas from other people.

ROT-13 -- A simple encoding program for Usenet, which is usually used to warn readers that if they decode the post, they're likely to find obscene material, usually a "dirty joke."

ROTFL -- Expression used in email messages or live chat conversations, stands for "Rolling on the Floor Laughing"

RTFM -- Either "Read the F****** Manual" or "Read the FAQ, Moron," depending on the usage.


serendipity search -- An Internet search that uncovers interesting and valuable information that the searcher wasn't originally looking for. "I found this really cool site on tiki collecting while I was on a serendipity search."

sextuple-u -- Another way of pronouncing the "www" part of Web addresses. (Our apologies if you were drawn to this word and found the definition disappointing!)

shouting -- Typing in all-caps, which is considered to be the Net-equivalent of raising your voice.

shovelware -- Content from an existing medium (such as a newspaper or book) that has been dumped wholesale into another medium (such as a CD-ROM or the Web).

smileys -- Collections of character meant to totally replace body language, intonation and complete physical presence. for example happy faces ;-) , or smiley faces :-) and sad faces :-( when viewed from sideways.

snail mail -- The standard name on the Internet for paper mail because email can travel across the country and continents in seconds, whereas conventional mail takes days together.

social engineering -- A technique where an impersonator "sweet talks" a user into providing valuable information about a company or its computer systems. It usually is used to obtain a user's password and ID for later use in an attack on that computer.

spam -- On the Internet, the verb "spam" means to throw a bunch of garbage at someone, or to clutter the Net with unwanted junk. It is named after SPAM, a pinkish "luncheon meat," produced by the Hormel Food Corporation.

spamdexing -- To repeat a word dozens or even hundreds of times at the top of a Web page. The word is usually indicative of the subject matter of the site, and repeating it so many times fools Web search engines into thinking the site is a good representation of that subject.

spamming -- Spamming is posting the same message to many unrelated newsgroups. The message is usually irrelevant to the newsgroups where it appears. This happens, either because some firm thinks it's found a free form of advertising, or because some nut thinks they've found a free soapbox. As the net grows, and more people come on-line, this sort of thing is bound to happen. The archetypal event was a posting offering legal services by two shysters called Cantor and Siegel, whose names live down in infamy. They advertised the services of their law firm in the so-called "Green Card Lottery" message. According to the Washington Post, the law firm in question considered the Internet to be "an ideal, low-cost and perfectly legitimate way to target people likely to be potential clients." Many people felt differently, though. They felt that, first, the Internet is the wrong place to conduct commercial business. Thousands of irate readers replied to them, stuffing their mailbox with purposefully huge emails until the system which housed their account crashed. This is called mail-bombing, which is considered impolite. The Cantor-Siegel incident was much publicized. Commercial providers of Internet access now have a very good reason to lay down extremely strict rules about spamming, since spamming by one of their clients can bring down their system and seriously inconvenience all their clients.

spontaneous program combustion -- When an application, which has been running normally for hours and in the absence of any other unusual phenomena, suddenly crashes.

sucking mud -- A description of a crashed computer. According to the Jargon File, this phrase comes from the oilfield lament, "Shut 'er down, Ma, she's a-suckin' mud."

sysop -- (Systems Operator) -- Anyone responsible for the physical operations of a computer system or network resource. A System Administrator decides how often backups and maintenance should be performed and the System Operator performs those tasks.


tag wrestling -- A popular, new sport, usually accompanied by grunting, slaps to the head, and cries of "I'm sure I put in that end tag" and "They must have changed the syntax of HTML on me."

Tetwrist -- A repetitive strain injury acquired after extended play of addictive computer games like Tetris.

thumb candy -- A computer game that's all hand-eye coordination with little strategy or thought required.

TMK -- Email expression, short for "To my knowledge"

treeware -- Books, manuals, and other computer-related information printed on paper.

triple-u -- A verbal shortcut for the always awkward "www" part of a Web address. For example, "triple-u dot Netscape dot com." Other possibilities are triple-dub and sextuple-u (i.e., three w's).

Trojan horse -- A piece of code, embedded in an otherwise benign program, that's used to attack a site.

troll-- A person who posts only to inflame opinion is "trolling for flames". Most are so obvious that only the most clueless "newbies" respond.

TTFN -- Email expression, short for "Ta-Ta For Now"

twit filter -- Computer software that blocks all messages from obnoxious people whose desire to communicate exceeds the desire of recipients to be communicated with. Employed both by sysops in behalf of all users of an online forum and by individual users themselves, twit filters will be even more in demand in 2001. As the number of Internet users soars, so swells the army of gibbering twits with mouse and modem.


ubiquilink -- Ubiquitous + link. A Web page link that appears on almost everyone's hotlist. "Yahoo! must be on every hotlist on the planet. It's a total ubiquilink."

user eye-D -- To meet someone face-to-face for the first time after having established only a written or oral relationship.


vanity plate -- An annoyingly large Web page image that serves no useful purpose.

vannevar -- A wildly incorrect technology prediction. The word comes from Vannevar Bush's prognostication that computers would evolve into Empire State Building-sized electronic brains.

verbal landfills -- Robert Everett-Green's description of Usenet: "[N]ewsgroups [are] the verbal landfills of the Net."


war-dialing -- A denial-of-service technique used by crackers that involves inundating a service provider with dial-in calls, thus immobilizing their modem pool and preventing regular users from connecting.

webmaster -- Not a spider, strictly speaking--but a manager of one of the 100,000 sites on the Internet's World Wide Web. From pure silicon, webmasters construct diaphanous domains into which a keyboard clientele is meant to fly and become ensnared by a desire for products, services, data or dirty pictures.

web presence -- An impressive site on the World Wide Web, one that suggests that the owner, whether a corporation, a university or some other institution, is a cyberspace-savvy major player. Executives used to try to impress the public with tall headquarters towers. Now, they stand tall on the information superhighway, ready to scamper over the William Jefferson Clinton Bridge to the 21st Century before the concrete is even dry.

wrackground image -- A background image or texture that ruins a Web page by making the text unreadable. See bad_back.htm for an example.


YMMV -- Your Mileage May Vary, (ie, you may have a different opinion on the subject)

YA -- Yet Another (for example, yet another light bulb joke).


Zen mail -- email messages that arrive with no text in the message body.

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