How Long Will “Hackerazzi” Last?

The sun was sinking, leaving a smudge on the horizon like the remains of a strawberry-mango daiquiri on the rim of a glass. De Sica still had on those shades.

“Colbert isn’t the only one. Real TV reporters and even newspaper writers like inventing blends,” he observed.

“You’re right. Blending two words is a way of keeping language fresh. You can make up a new word that people instantly understand. Some of these blends stick, but others disappear as quickly as Lindsay Lohan from jail.”

‘Speaking of celebrities, the FBI coined the term “hackerazzi” for a computer hackers who electronically stalk celebrities by hacking into their email, like the way paparazzi stalk them for photos.’

“Right. We’ll see how long that terms lasts. In case you’re wondering, paparazzi is the plural of Paparazzo, which according to the OED Online, is the name of a society photographer in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita.

“The origin of hacker is more elusive. To computer nerds sometimes a hack means a ‘quick and dirty job, a way of getting something done with little effort or skill,’ like hacking away at something with an ax, but it’s also used to mean ‘painstaking and elegant programming.’ The Hacker’s Dictionary explains away the seeming contradiction here,” I said, turning my phone toward de Sica.

“Whoa! Too much to read with these dark glasses,” he said. “I’ll look it up later.”

“OK. So anyway, some nerds get all huffy when hackers are assumed to be criminals. To them the word retains its older meaning of, as the Hacker’s Dictionary puts it:

A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities…

“It seems that the use of hacking in practical jokes that got students in hot water with campus police made hackers suspect. And some outright criminals revel in their programming prowess.”

“Yeah, one guy or gal hacks the Pentagon computers and spoils the fun for everyone.”


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