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Scandinavian folklore

A troll is a fearsome member of a mythical humanoid race from Scandinavian folklore. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is a well-known Scandinavian tale in which a troll living under a bridge torments some billy goats that want to cross. The word "Troll" is possibly derived from an old norse word meaning magic, cf. Swedish trolla Danish and Norwegian trylle ("to perform magic tricks").


Internet trolling

In the context of the Internet, a troll is a person who posts inflammatory messages intended to cause a disruption in discourse. The word is also often used to describe such messages.

This contemporary use of the term first appeared on Usenet groups in the early 1990s. It is widely thought to be a diminutive of the phrase "trolling for suckers," itself derived from the sports-fishing technique of trolling.

The word likely gained currency on the internet because of its conveniently apt original meaning in Scandinavian folklore as described above. The creatures from these children's tales are often ugly, obnoxious creatures bent on wickedness and mischief.

Use as a pejorative

As a pejorative, the term "troll" is very often a slander of opponents in heated debates. People who identify as trolls and those who vehemently deny that they are trolls will both use the term, often making it obvious to all neutral third parties that both participants are, in fact, trolls: one who admits it, and one who does not. Accordingly the view has arisen in some circles that trolls, the plural, is a valid term, but that it is not valid to refer to someone as an Internet troll on their own. In other words, it takes two to troll, and once they do, they're two trolls.

It could also have originated from the prase "don't feed the troll" as giving them ammunition by replying to their posts often in fact made them stronger and perpetuated the argument.

Vicious circles

Many times a person will post a sincere message that they are emotionally sensitive about. Skillful trolls know that the easiest way to upset them is to falsely claim that the person is a troll. On other occasions a person may not instantly understand or fit into the social norms of a forum where most people are the same - and so acting just slightly out of social norms, often unintentionally, for legitimate reasons gets the poster called a troll. Whether they actually "are" a troll depends wholly on whether one takes the political view of trolling, in which motives are not considered.

Sometimes people who are merely attempting to be funny are accused of trolling, when that is not their intent. Many trolls now find that the traditional trolling tactics are so overused and commonplace that they have to disguise their trolling to make it effective - although, quite often, the disguising merely involves accusing others of being trolls themselves.

Trolling on TT

The act of trolling is generally discouraged from the TT chat forum. This is because trolling is usually harmful to a community. It disrupts the intelligent and good-natured discourse which is usually favoured. The occasional and intelligently crafted troll can be good fun however. Trolling on TT is probably less prevalent than many believe. It is very easy to misinterpret genuine stupidity for an intentional troll. In this case Hanlon's Razor may apply. Carelessly accusing a poster or post of being a troll is considered a personal attack. And as we know, there must be no personal attacks on this website.

See also

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