The internet keeps changing our vocabulary

I’ve written before about the changes in our language since the advent of the internet. I’ll add a few words now from the seemingly unending list.

We appreciate and marvel at the great fire hose, a large-diameter synthetic hose used to extinguish fires. Now, however, it refers online to a very large stream of data.

Several rather negative terms refer to the use or overuse of that data. A "bump" once meant something encountered as an obstacle or hindrance. Now it is to move an online post or thread to the top of the reverse chronological list by adding a new comment or post to a thread.

A similar word, "block," was either the object or act of placing something on a road or path so nothing could pass through. Internet use has made this word more specific to mean to prevent someone from contacting you on a social network, such as Twitter, or from viewing your profile.

A total change in terms is seen in the word "canoe." While it once referred to a long, narrow boat, pointed at both ends and moved by a paddle, it is now a Twitter conversation that has picked up too many usernames for an actual conversation to take place. Are we going in circles?

There are a few words whose originally simple meanings have become more specific. A "ping" used to be a sharp sound like that of a striking bullet. Now it is a verb, to make contact with someone by sending a brief electronic message.

How many of us have used a "text," meaning a book or other piece of writing, especially one studied? This has become a verb indicating to send a message, or an adjective describing that message.

And if you would like to keep it short and sweet, take the noun "tweet," formerly a chirping note, and turn it into the object or act of sending a short message posted on Twitter.

Does much of this technological world seem like a fairytale? Then keep in mind the "troll," once a dwarf or giant in folklore that inhabited caves or hills. Now this creature is that person who sows discord on the internet by starting arguments or upsetting people. There is always at least one of those!

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years. If you have grammar questions, email her at


Share This Story