Talking in #straightdope a moment ago, I mentioned to another Doper that I was on a break from a movie I am watching while surfing the board and for some reason, the phrase jarred me. Anyone that uses the internet knows what it means but how did the phrase gain such popular usage? Looking at etymonline.com, its first recorded usage was in 1993 but it doesn’t give anything further than that. Does anyone know where it was first used and in what context?
Wouldn’t some other verb make more sense? Like crawling (the world wide web)? How did surfing become so ubiquitous?
The phrase predates the “California Computer Industry of the 90’s”, in that is was coined in 1991. It comes from the phrase “channel surfing”, and was first coined by Jean Armour Polly, and is first seen in a USEnet post on June 6, 1991.
“Surfing”, meant to refer to transience and aimlessness was a common verb at the time; it wass used in the aforementioned “channel surfing”, “couch surfing” (staying at friends houses one after another) and shelf-surfing (browsing aimlessly through books at a library). The phrase did not have anything to do with the “beach culture overlap”, in my experience.