dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #1015

deborah deborah.dwj at suberic.net
Tue May 17 15:01:51 EDT 2005

On Tue, 17 May 2005 minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
|This is all part of the endless quest for information; does anyone here
|have any old-fangled definition or origin for this usage of the word, so
|that I will know how best to apply it when I want to ask someone not to?

>From the jargon file (and semi-on-topic, because it references the
origin of the word as Chaucer (!) and this is therefore a Literary Post:


[at MIT, orig. from the phrase flaming asshole]

1. vi. To post an email message intended to insult and provoke.

2. vi. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively
uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous attitude.

3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with hostility at a particular
person or people.

4. n. An instance of flaming. When a discussion degenerates into useless
controversy, one might tell the participants .Now you're just flaming.
or .Stop all that flamage!. to try to get them to cool down (so to

The term may have been independently invented at several different
places. It has been reported from MIT, Carleton College and RPI (among
many other places) from as far back as 1969, and from the University of
Virginia in the early 1960s.

It is possible that the hackish sense of .flame. is much older than
that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in his
time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced computing
device of the day. In Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida, Cressida laments
her inability to grasp the proof of a particular mathematical theorem;
her uncle Pandarus then observes that it's called .the fleminge of
wrecches.. This phrase seems to have been intended in context as .that
which puts the wretches to flight. but was probably just as ambiguous in
Middle English as .the flaming of wretches. would be today. One suspects
that Chaucer would feel right at home on Usenet."

Wikipedia sez:

"Flaming is the performance "art" of posting messages that are
deliberately hostile and insulting, usually in the social context of a
discussion board (usually on the Internet). Such messages are called
flames, and are often posted in response to flamebait. Flaming is one of
a class of economic problems known as The Tragedy of the Commons, when a
group holds a resource (in this case, communal attention), but each of
the individual members has an incentive to overuse it."

So Robin's usage isn't the most common, but certainly isn't unheard of.

Wiki does not reference Chacer, alas.

I'm a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle and here is my ... my ...
Hey, I'm a sugar bowl!

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