Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trolls

A UW professor offers a complete history of Scandinavia's mythical beasts.



The concept of internet trolls originated (c1980-1990) with the verb which we associated with a type of fishing (to drag a line behind as you go); and not the mythical creature (the noun). That is, your UW professor may take solace that the association with the legendary beast came after the fact much like is proposed via the verb and noun etymologies: https://www.etymonline.com/word/troll#etymonline_v_17856


@1 - thank you!


That fact that significant numbers of Nordic people actually truly believe in trolls and other mythic woodland creatures is .... I can't decide between charming and fucking ridiculous.


I used to set logic traps when I was a child arguing with people twice my age. They’d call me a troglodyte and a monster because I’d kill them and take all of their shit.

They call that trolling any more, when actual trolling was, like, taking over chat rooms, sending people to links they can’t unsee, attacking Korea, messing with, for example, Christian forums(didn’t do that one myself), but that’s trolling.

Trolling is not setting up someone to lose an argument, it’d be posing as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church here, or dressing up as demons and going to youth football games.

I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to win an argument, though. Maybe they don’t feel a need due to a form of perceived omnipotence attained via unlimited, often baseless labels that needn’t be observed?

“Oh. Me. I exist and I am wrong.”


Ok. For whoever does the banning:

Genuine opinion you disagree with, possibly from a perspective you do not hold:
- Not Trolling.

Logic and debate 101:
- Not Trolling.

Letting Gandhi go on because his stated intent is “plotting the downfall of Western Civilization”:
- Getting Trolled.

Nighty night!


Following up on @1, I believe this pair of words - troll as a mythical creature & troll as an internet creature - fall under the category of False Cognates, in that they share sound and (to some extent) meaning, but have different etymologies.


However, it is probably not a complete coincidence: even if the word started off as fishing reference, it might have taken off in popularity because of the more vivid association with the mythic creature.

As a follow up, reading the above Wikipedia article, I was surprised to find that the English word emoticon and Japanese word emoji are false cognates too. :)


@3 lest anyone lump the Finns into this, they don't believe in trolls. The Finns, while Nordic, are not Scandinavian. Yes, there's a difference.

Likewise, the Napoleonic wars did not change the question of "what does it mean to be Finnish?" since Finland remained a neglected grand duchy of Russia after the war. It was well after the wars that a different set of nationalist ideas (and many famines, etc.) that finally established some semblance of a Finnish national identity.


@1 Absolutely correct - the word "trolling" was to be used as a verb based on fishing (the idea being to "hook" the target). As online usage expanded, people just assumed it was the noun. It wasn't.

Usenet was the absolute best platform for trolling in the world. Master trolls could just stride into some usenet group that had some long simmering points of contentions, or malignant personalities, make one comment, and watch everything ignite into absolute chaos. That was the essence of trolling.

Also important was the distinction between trolling (see above) and flaming, which was just back and forth nastiness, sometimes for sport.