WHEN you were young you had probably never heard of the word troll. Depending on how old you are, you might not even have heard of computers.
You went out to play in the morning and you came home late in the afternoon in response to a loud call from your mother. Do you remember the time when mothers stood on the front steps calling out “Johnny darling, come home now, dinner’s ready”? In most cases, the return home would coincide with feelings of hunger.
Are today’s youngsters being cocooned in cotton wool, or is the world changing?
And what of the word troll?
My information is that this year represents the tenth anniversary of the word as we know it, although troll with other meanings has been around for a lot longer.
What I can’t understand is why people spend their time looking up their hand-held gadgets to find out if somebody, out there, is saying something nasty about them. And if they do find something nasty then they rush off to perform some aspect of self-harm. That’ll show ‘em.
Probably most people can remember some aspect of bullying in their younger years. Few let it take over their lives.
These days, of course, the computer world seems to have taken over many people’s lives. One person can multiply the damage by sending a message to hundreds, even thousands, of people just by the click of a button.
Over the past few weeks newspaper readers could hardly have missed the word troll, mainly through the reaction of two people. Apparently some people have said something nasty about them and they found out about it.
The word troll goes back a long way.
Although my big dictionary uses the term “uncertain origin”, many people suggest it goes back as far as Norse mythology, where it represented a supernatural being or evil figures.
The French had a word troller, which meant something like “to go in quest of game, without purpose”. It represented some aspects of fishing.
I like the Wikipedia comment that “trolls may be ugly and slow-witted or look and behave exactly like human beings”.
My understanding is that troll took on an extended meaning ten years ago. A computer user allegedly using the name Troll tried to make some funny comments. The term troll seemed to have stuck from that date, only in many cases the comments are no longer funny.
Many people engaging in trolling are said to be seeking an online reaction from those trolled.
You might remember that in 2010 the Australian Government became concerned after trolls defaced a Facebook page intended as a tribute to two murdered children. Newspapers and others campaigned against “Twitter trolls” who abused and threatened others.
So it seems that the modern troll is a computer message that denigrates others, usually in a very nasty way.
The two recent and well-publicised trolls concerned Charlotte Dawson, a person I have never heard of but who was taken to hospital, and footballer Robbie Farah. Farah, who had suggested that Julia Gillard should get a noose for her birthday – he later apologised -became upset at troll comments about his mother and pleaded for greater accountability on internet sites.
Of course, who is the person who decides that a comment is offensive or an exercise in justified free speech?
That’s something that can be answered by people with a far better knowledge of the subject.
Incidentally, someone out there might be saying something bad about you. But if you don’t look for it then chances are you won’t know about it.
If you know Bessie Jennings, from Port Macquarie, you might be interested to know her seventh book of verse, titled Homely Poems, will be available this week.
I have been given the honour of launching the book. Bessie says she wants to become known as the Pam Ayres of Australia, but the way she is going Pam Ayres might wish to be called the Bessie Jennings of Britain.