A friend who knows of my casual interest in Internet culture sent me an email.
"Guess what?" he wrote. "There's an entire web site devoted to goofing on Internet trolls."
And, believe it or not, there really is.
It's called "Forumwarz."
The long and the short of it is that this is a game with a message. But you have to play it to get it. Oh, go ahead! It's just time -- the one thing you will be begging for more of on your last day on earth.
As I have noted in the past, the Internet is an inspirational place where millions of people reach out to locate kindred souls, share knowledge, and build worthwhile communities and information resources. Most of these people stand up straight, have real names, have real email addresses, do pretty solid research, and can look other folks in the eye.
Ironically, the Internet is also a sad place full of angry, pathetic and lonely losers who who seek to destroy community, sow confusion and spread disinformation. Most of these folks are anonymous cowards who do not have real names, do not have real email addresses, do not do any real research before typing , and who will never look anyone in the eye because they are fakes, fools, pretenders and bullshit artists.
Imagine my surprise to discover that this last group actually has a Wiki entry to describe them!
And yes, they really are called Anonymous Cowards.
Other terms that are apparently used are: "Anonymous Idiot" and "Random Fuckbag."
Lovely. And, of course, there is the old standard: Troll.
Run a blog, forum or web site and you will get such creatures showing up. They are like rats in a barn and they come in several forms: hit and run posters, cyber-bullies, flame-baiters and sock puppets, to name just a few.
Of course the Internet is increasingly international so "Random Fuckbag" has to find its equivalent in other languages.
And so I have recently learned the Spanish phrase: "Pendejo sin nombre," or "nameless asshole."
Cool. Very international.
But what about the other languages? What's the equivalent in French? In German? In Finnish? In Dutch? In Swedish?
A quick run at Google Translator suggested "anonymous coward" in Dutch (anonieme lafaard), French (lâche anonyme), German (anonymer Feigling), Swedish (anonym feg), and Croatian (anonimnih kukavica).
But how to begin to translate "Random Fuckbag"?
I decide "old condom" is about as close as I am likely to get with Google Translator, which obligingly suggests equivalents in Dutch (oud condoom), French (vieux préservatif), German (alte Kondo), Swedish (gamla kondom), and Croatian (stari kondom).
I know these phrases are not quite right and do not carry the necessary sauce for the goose. What is really needed here are foreign-language colloquialisms.
Sadly, however, the Internet has not yet been perfected to that level.
An "anonymous idiot" or "ashole" may work as descriptive insult in any language, but it lacks distinction as a result. "Random fuckbag" is handmade phrasing that is probably unique to the English language. It is idiom with at least a little bit of terroir left in it. It is language with legs.