When speaking of ‘Internet trolling’, are you using ‘trolling’ in the sense of a method of fishing, or in the sense of how a mythical cave-dwelling creature behaves?

Edit: This was supposed to be a poll. :smack:

How do you perceive ‘troll’/‘trolling’?

  1. Fishing: Bait and lures, looking for a ‘response’ (‘catch’)?
  2. Mythical creature: Obnoxious behaviour


It seems to me that the ambiguity is resolved in the noun form. If the metaphor is someone fishing using a troll line, surely the noun would be a troller, not a troll.

ETA: No, on reflection, maybe that’s not sound reasoning. If the verbal form “trolling” came first, and became widespread and accepted in a metaphorical sense, there’s not reason that the associated noun wouldn’t be troll.

The etymology section in Wikipedia seem to lean toward the fishing metaphor, possible via a pre-internet military metaphor, “trolling for MiGs” = drawing enemy fights to decoy them away. Similarly “trolling for newbies”, originally more joshing than malicious, with the verbal form preceding the noun.

The section on equivalent terms in other languages is pretty interesting.

I think with slang terms that sometimes multiple meanings work in conjunction to make it go viral. I’ve always heard that the fishing meaning was the original intent; however it would be foolish to dismiss the cave dweller meaning. I think the latter helped cement the former in popularity.

For me its 2. Mythical creature: Obnoxious behaviour

But it can also mean something like the first in that some people have a “pet line” that they produce/present over and over again in both time and place.

In my understanding of the current usage, trolling is intentionally making people angry to draw them into arguments. Not in the classical sense of argument, logical debate, but verbal fights. The troll finds amusement in manipulating others’ anger. The act of luring people into revealing personal info is now known as phishing (not related to the band Phish.)

In actual recreational fishing, dragging a lure through the water to attract a fish is still called trolling.

It there *was *a poll, and it had “both”, that’s what I’d pick.

Since we’re on the topic, I was a bit taken aback yesterday when I saw a car full of people waving “Trump/Make America Great!” banners as they drove down the road yesterday. That seemed kinda trollish…to me anyway.

Back during my first couple of years on the Dope, it was unequivocally considered to be related to trawling. There were even instances of older Dopers congratulating one another over successful trolls of newbies who had been sucked into believing that an old hand was a YEC, (although I doubt I’d be able to find them today).

I kind of have the sense that the bridge-dwelling type of meaning started to emerge after 9/11/2001.

I have always assumed it was the fishing metaphor.

I thought the fishing metaphor was “trawling”

For me, I think of No. 2 immediately. No. 1 sounds more like trawling, although I think it’s increasingly being used to describe trolling.

Trolling (fishing)

ETA: Trolling is dragging a baited line to lure fish. Trawling is dragging a net.


I’m pretty sure the fishing metaphor was the original meaning. I was on the Internet way back when the term originated, probably around the time of the discovery of fire, but I don’t really recall the details. I think the cave dweller meaning arose later, when someone gave the jocular name “troll” to someone who engages in trolling. “Troll” gained traction not because it’s more appropriate than “troller”, but because it’s funnier.

Yes, that’s why I realized that my initial thought was wrong. Taken in the non-metaphorical sense, it would be odd to call someone who engages in the mundane fishing technique of trolling anything other than a “troller”. But once the verb “trolling” becomes established with a metaphorical meaning for a novel and unusual activity, I think there’s intuitively much more scope for what the corresponding noun can be. And it’s not without parallel - we call someone who spies a spy, not a spyer. With the perfect second metaphor of a daylight-deprived ugly monster attached to the original meaning of troll, it was the natural choice.

Noted. Thanks!