My publisher recently asked me for some content to use to help promote my latest books, so I spent some time during the holidays writing a couple of articles for their website. I recently received one of the articles back from the editor and I was struck by the absurdity of one of the comments in the file. This post is my response to that absurdity.

When I get a few spare moments, I look through the Cordova/PhoneGap questions on Google Group or Stack Overflow. Whenever I do, I usually find one or two that I can answer without too much work, so I give it a shot. In my most recent article about Cordova, I wrote the following:

“For many years now, I've been trolling the PhoneGap Google Groups and Stack Overflow Cordova sites, trying to answer what questions I can.”

In response to this, the editor wrote the following:

“Can you think of a verb that doesn't resemble troll, since that word is also used to describe the abusive activity of online jerks?”

As I’m describing a scenario where I’m putting a hook in the water and driving around in my boat looking for fish, I was pretty happy with my choice of trolling in this case. That is, after all, the definition (source

  • To fish with a hook and line that you pull through the water
  • To search for or try to get (something)
  • To search through (something)

Sometimes a word is just a word and the classic definition of the word…simply…works. In this case, there’s trolling for fish and, the other, bad, Internet Troll. In this case, I’m pretty sure my context is clear; as you read the sentence, does it feel to you that I’m announcing to the world that I monitor Stack Overflow and Google Groups looking for people to attack verbally? Or, more reasonably, did I intend to mean that I’m, as per the Merriam Webster dictionary definition above, searching through something?

We shouldn’t be afraid to use words simply because of one, unofficial, interpretation of the word. The urban dictionary, for example, completly ignores the actual definition of the word and instead leads with the bad Internet Troll interpretation of the word. I bet that many people don’t actually know the true meaning of troll; the Urban Dictionary’s manipulation of the definition doesn’t help either.

We have to stop looking for things to be offended about; people are way, way too sensitive nowadays and it’s getting a little ridiculous. As George Carlin famously said: “There are bad thoughts, bad intentions, and words.” I’d like to amend that to the following: “There are bad thoughts, bad intentions, actions and words.” Judge me on my actions or the reasonable assessment of my words; not the potential, unreasonable interpretation of a word. Reasonable people will likely assume the least offensive meaning of my use of trolling until I prove otherwise.

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