Contents page

Index (83KB)


flame: 1. vi. To post an email message intended to insult and
   provoke.  2. vi. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some
   relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous
   attitude.  3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with
   hostility at a particular person or people.  4. n. An instance of
   flaming.  When a discussion degenerates into useless controversy,
   one might tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or
   "Stop all that flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to

USENETter Marc Ramsey, who was at WPI from 1972 to 1976, adds: "I am 99% certain that the use of `flame' originated at WPI. Those who made a nuisance of themselves insisting that they needed to use a TTY for `real work' came to be known as `flaming asshole lusers'. Other particularly annoying people became `flaming asshole ravers', which shortened to `flaming ravers', and ultimately `flamers'. I remember someone picking up on the Human Torch pun, but I don't think `flame on/off' was ever much used at WPI." See also asbestos.

The term may have been independently invented at several different places; it is also reported that `flaming' was in use to mean something like `interminably drawn-out semi-serious discussions' (late-night bull sessions) at Carleton College during 1968--1971.

It is possible that the hackish sense of `flame' is much older than that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in his time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced computing device of the day. In Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressida", Cressida laments her inability to grasp the proof of a particular mathematical theorem; her uncle Pandarus then observes that it's called "the fleminge of wrecches." This phrase seems to have been intended in context as "that which puts the wretches to flight" but was probably just as ambiguous in Middle English as "the flaming of wretches" would be today. One suspects that Chaucer would feel right at home on USENET.