From Vikings to Richard Dawkins – The origins of common tech terms

Unfamiliar terminology is a common feature of modern tech and the Internet, and many of these terms have become second nature to users despite seemingly being nonsensical.

While some of these terms are self-explanatory, others come from unlikely sources that have nothing to do with the fields they are employed in.

Here are some well-known tech terms whose obscure etymologies might surprise you.


Bluetooth

This popular wireless data transfer technology rose to mainstream prominence as a means of transferring media such as images and music between cellphones.

However, it is now used in a wide variety of other situations – such as enabling the use of wireless peripherals.

While the development of Bluetooth technology began in 1989, the name dates back over a millennium to 10th-century king, Harald Bluetooth, who managed to unite a variety of Danish tribes into a kingdom.

The implication of using the name Bluetooth, therefore, is that it is a technology which is used to connect different entities.


Google

Google has become the dominant name in the global search engine market, while also owning and running various other important technology products such as Gmail, Android, and Google Drive.

It has become one of the most valuable companies in the world, but has come under significant criticism in recent years surrounding the privacy of users’ data.

While “Google” has become a verb in its own right, the name originally derives from the term “Googol.” A Googol is a number which begins with 1, followed by a thousand zeroes.

This name was chosen to imply that the search engine would provide users with access to a nearly limitless amount of data.


Doxxing

An unfortunate trend that has become increasingly common online is doxxing.

This term refers to a situation where someone’s personal data is exposed to the online public, including information such as their address or contact details.

The term derives from the word docs – short for documents – which is a type of information that is often leaked online.


Emoji


Emoji

Instant messaging has reached a point (for better or worse) where one can be seen as rude or curt for not including an emoji in a text.

These little faces have become a staple of online communications, and have evolved from a collection of punctuation marks, letters, and digits to fully-fledged animated images.

They were invented by Shigetaka Kurita of Docomo, but because Docomo did not receive a copyright for these emojis, bigger companies soon caught onto this trend and implemented their own versions.

The name comes from Japanese characters: 絵 – e, meaning picture; 文 – mo, meaning writing; and 字 – ji, meaning character.


Wiki

The best known and most popular Wiki by a long way is Wikipedia; best described as an online encyclopedia containing information about almost everything one could possibly wish for.

However, Wikis more generally are interconnected collections of information that are built by users, for users.

Many Wikis are themed and offer relevant information about these specific themes – such as Wookiepedia (a Star Wars Wiki) and WikiHow (a collection of How To guides).

“Wiki Wiki” is Hawaiian for quick, and Wiki creator Ward Cunningham chose this name because he envisioned Wikis being quickly-accessible sources of information about specific topics.


Meme

One of the most prolific forms of humour and entertainment on the internet is the meme.

Memes use humour through a format that is commonly understood by those who consume them – from generic image templates to common phrases.

However, contrary to popular belief, the term “meme” did not derive from the internet at all.

It was first coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”, and the term refers to an idea that can be easily transmitted.

It combines the Greek word “Mimeme” – meaning something imitated – and the English word “gene.”


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From Vikings to Richard Dawkins – The origins of common tech terms