[Ads-l] lurker (1983)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 9 16:50:44 EST 2022


I wonder if the negative connotations of the non-electronic uses of the verb “lurk” are creeping back in. In the early generative semantics literature of the late 60s and early 70s, it was observed (by J. R. “Haj” Ross, if I remember correctly) that first person uses of “lurk” are odd—you can accuse others of lurking in a culvert, but you wouldn’t describe yourself that way. (This was related to an argument for abstract levels of structure I won’t go into here.) So the pejorative nature of lurking would be hard-wired into the verb, and by extension the agentive nominal, even if they were bleached out in the early online usage. 

LH 

> On Jan 9, 2022, at 4:43 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:
> 
> It’s interesting to see that this was originally a pejorative term.  When I first started going online in the early 1990s (starting specifically with CompuServe), the conventional wisdom was that, in spite of its seemingly negative connotations, “lurking” was an entirely neutral description and there was no opprobrium whatever associated with being a lurker.
> 
> 
> John Baker
> 
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Ben Zimmer
> Sent: Saturday, January 8, 2022 11:12 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: lurker (1983)
> 
> External Email - Think Before You Click
> 
> 
> OED's entry for "lurker" (Aug. 2001 draft addition) has the sense in
> computing slang ("A person who reads communications to an electronic
> network without actively contributing") from 1984. Here are a few cites
> from 1983 -- all of them (like OED's 1984 cite) refer to CompuServe CB
> Simulator, an early online chat service.
> 
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/softside-magazine-56/page/n14/mode/1up<https://archive.org/details/softside-magazine-56/page/n14/mode/1up>
> _Softside_, #41, Vol. 6, No. 8, June 1983, p. 11
> "World Connection" by Tim Knight
> A "lurker" is a person on CB who just sits and types nothing, which is
> pretty frustrating to the other users who want as much action as possible.
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/worldconnection00knig/page/51/mode/1up<https://archive.org/details/worldconnection00knig/page/51/mode/1up>
> _The World Connection_ by Timothy Orr Knight (1983)
> For example, a "lurker" is someone who says absolutely nothing on CB, but
> just sits at his or her terminal and watches what is going on. Lurkers are
> aggravating, since users would like everyone to get in on the conversation.
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/computerphoneboo0000cane/page/56/mode/1up<https://archive.org/details/computerphoneboo0000cane/page/56/mode/1up>
> _The Computer Phone Book_ by Mike Cane (1983)
> At the bottom of the list, in this example, is your lurker: a user with the
> handle "Pardner." You can now tell Pardner that he or she should join in
> the conversation and not be shy.
> ---
> 
> --bgz
> 
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org<http://www.americandialect.org>
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