|Saturday, June 29, 2002||
THERE is no logic behind the selection of certain words as favorites by a language-user. Of course, developments in the world do contribute to the process of choosing certain favourite words, but so far, there are no clues to the puzzle of ‘why one word and not another?’ A much-bandied-about word of our times is hack. It’s not a new word, comes from the Old English haccian that meant to cut in pieces. It is quite common to use hack for any act of cutting something roughly. This leads to this word being used in the sense of kicking wildly in a game. It also created hack as a noun used in many senses: one, a rough blow, two, a rough notch, three, a tool for rough cutting. Hack also makes an appearance in the lexicon of slang where it is used as a phrase, ‘to hack it’, that is, to attempt, manage or accomplish.
With the computer
came a whole family of computer-related words beginning with hack as a
verb, meaning to gain unauthorised access to data in a computer. The
person who performs such an act is a hack or hacker. Hacker has taken
on many connotations with the passage of time.
As is the case when a word becomes a favorite, hack inspired other related words. When hacking became a threat to security, computer systems that were safe were called hacker-proof and an electronic hacker watch became necessary for those that were not. The special jargon of hacks came to be called hacker-speak. Computer games that involved combat and violence came to be called hack and slash games.
Footprint is another word immortalised by the computer. It was first used in the technical sense by a space scientist: a footprint is the landing area of an aircraft. In the early seventies a footprint was the ground area affected by the noise and pressure from an aircraft. The area of contact between a tire and the ground is also called the tire’s footprint. Perhaps this led to the use of footprint as the surface area taken up by the computer on a desk. Footprint is connected with hack too; footprint came to be used figuratively in the computer lexicon to mean a visible sign left in a file to show that it had been hacked into.
The sense-reference-meaning chain
creates new worxds in every language. In Hindi, the word paatra is used
for a character in a work or a person who is capable of receiving
something. In Sanskrit, the language of origin, paatra is a utensil that
carries water. The sense of something that is capable of holding
something was transferred to a person who holds a place or possesses