[Ads-l] bitcoin as generic term for cryptocurrencies

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 6 20:57:46 UTC 2017

Good points. I didn’t realize “crypto-“ had that meaning.

In the case of cryptocurrency, however, the meaning is cryptography as you also note, and while AFAIK all cryptocurrencies incorporate some sort of privacy through cryptography, I think it’s a stretch to say that the “crypto-“ in “cryptocurrency” has the explicit meaning of “hidden” even if it entails hiding certain things.

(I haven’t read it, but the white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto is only seven pages long, and there is a section on privacy.)

As to whether cryptography refers to the coins, I don’t know that there’s a clear answer.

Somewhat simplified: When you first start crypto software (a wallet), you create a password called your private key, and the crypto software creates a receiving address (called a public key). 

I don’t think it’s the same, but just like you can tell the world your e-mail address and nobody can read your e-mail without knowing your password, so you can tell the world your receiving address and nobody can use your cryptocoins without the private key. In some wallets, you can’t even see your balance without entering the private key.

The blockchain is not encrypted in the sense that all of the transactions can be seen by anyone. Here is the link to a block of transactions of litecoin: https://chainz.cryptoid.info/ltc/block.dws?1290452.htm <https://chainz.cryptoid.info/ltc/block.dws?1290452.htm>. You can see the time, quantity, send address and receiving address of each transaction.

When cryptocoins are “sent" and “received”, there is no physical transfer, only this electronic entry to the blockchain, which means that the legal concept of “possession” may not apply. If you have cryptocoins in your wallet and you know the private key, then you are able to use them by “sending” them to someone else’s receiving address. 

In sum, when Wikipedia says the transactions are secured with cryptography, it means that even though the receiving address and coin quantity are publicly visible, the coins cannot be used without knowing the private key that unlocks the receiving address.


> On 6 Oct 2017, at 13:27, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> But:
> "Crypto" does mean "hidden"
> https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/crypto- <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/crypto->
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency>
> says the following:
> "a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure the transactions"
> which means to me that the cryptography refers to the blockchain, not to
> the currency itself.
> DanG
> On Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 4:19 PM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com <mailto:mail.barretts at gmail.com>>
> wrote:
>> Band-Aid and the like are, like Velcro that I mentioned the other day,
>> trademark issues. That and the genericization of bitcoin might be the same
>> issue; I’m not sure. C.f. “overextension", such as found in child speech (
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errors_in_early_word_use#Overextension <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errors_in_early_word_use#Overextension> <
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errors_in_early_word_use#Overextension <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errors_in_early_word_use#Overextension>>).
>> Crypto doesn’t mean “hidden”. It means “cryptography” (
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency> <https://en.wikipedia.org/ <https://en.wikipedia.org/>
>> wiki/Cryptocurrency>).
>> FWIW, cryptocoins with an emphasis on privacy/anonymization are generally
>> known as “privacy coins”. I have seen an argument that anonymization is
>> really the focus and so “privacy coin” is a misnomer.
>> BB
>>> On 6 Oct 2017, at 13:08, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>> Two thoughts:
>>> A version of the Band-Aid / Kleenex / Xerox issue.
>>> Why the "crypto" in cryptocurrency? What is "hidden" about them? Not a
>>> great name.
>>> DanG
>>> On Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 3:57 PM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Unfortunately, I didn’t save the tweet, but someone once noted that
>>>> “bitcoin” is sometimes used as a generic term for cryptocurrency.
>>>> In "IMF director Christine Lagarde: Bitcoin is too expensive for me at
>>>> the…” (https://www.cnbc.com/video/2017/10/06/imf-director-
>>>> christine-lagarde-bitcoin-is-too-expensive-for-me-at-the-moment.html),
>>>> Christine Lagarde says in response to a question from Sara Eisen:
>>>>>>>> You know, what the Chinese authorities have decided is to just ban the
>>>> initial offering of bitcoins
>>>> China recently prohibited initial coin offerings (ICO).
>>>> N.B. She is not a native speaker of English.
>>>> Benjamin Barrett
>>>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org <http://www.americandialect.org/>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org <http://www.americandialect.org/>

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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