16 September 2011


Recently, I became aware of a term I'd never heard before - "trolling". Though there seems to be some disagreement as to what actually constitutes trolling, it seems to describe making mischievous comments over the internet - comments that may be designed to antagonise, mock or "wind up" the original author. At its worst and most hurtful, trolling can lead to criminal conviction but it can also operate at lighter levels creating healthy amusement.

The Urban Dictionary site gives several definitions of trolling, including this one:- "Trolling is trying to get a rise out of someone. Forcing them to respond to you, either through wise-crackery, posting incorrect information, asking blatantly stupid questions, or other foolishness. However, trolling statements are never true or are ever meant to be construed as such. Nearly all trolled statements are meant to be funny to some people, so it does have some social/entertainment value."

This is another definition: "The art of reducing helpless nerds to tears over the internet."

Of course, in legend a "troll" is a nasty Scandinavian imp like figure that lives in caves and dark forests and plays unpleasant tricks on people. It was a troll that hid beneath the bridge as the three billygoats gruff clip-clopped over it. When I was a schoolboy, I had a little white rubber troll in my pencil case. He had purple hair and was less than two inches tall. I kept him for years but now he's lost. He looked something like this:-
When visiting other blogs, I suspect that I have sometimes "trolled" when leaving comments after posts. Very probably, Mr John Gray, Mr S. Parrots, Madam Jennyta, Ms Blawat, Mr Plague and Miss Daphne have all from time to time been recipients of my "trolling" remarks. But if it so please your honour, I never meant any harm. I was only doing it for a laugh. Honest.

Perhaps we need a new term. Reserve "trolling" for remarks that are intended to be hurtful, inflammatory or downright nasty and for remarks that are little more than cheeky, non-malicious, light-hearted banter let's call it "rhubarbing" or maybe "plaguing". Any other suggestions?


  1. I'm sorry you lost your troll. Although on reflection I never liked them because their hair was too brittle and hard to comb to a tangle-free state. Such was I in my a-retentive youth. Sad but true.

    Re. your question asking for a name for the 'happy silly winding-up' kind of comments on blogs, I am in the process of formulating a unique blog post revealing my incredibly in-depth investigation of this matter, and the outcome. You can see how I am a completely different person these days.

  2. Not to worry, YP. I always take it for granted that your remarks are meant in the nicest way. ;)

  3. I am happy to include a variety of impish, literate smart-asses (aka trolls) on my list of friends. You are certainly at the top of that list, and I hope you stay there. Just don't comment about my friends having big butts, please. (It's OK to point out mine.)

  4. That takes me back -- me and my sister had an extensive collection of trolls when we were kids.

    As for the cyberspace variety, I recall that it used to be called flaming -- insulting people to provoke an angry reaction.

    I found the recent prosecutions a little disturbing. The people leaving nasty comments on memorial websites are despicable no doubt, but being jailed for something they've said? Worrying.

    By that yardstick, you deserve 30 days hard labour on a diet of bread and water and serve you right!

  5. sweetie
    you have said NOTHING to upset me!

  6. There's a fine line between cheekiness and trolling. Sometimes you cross it. Sometimes you don't.

    I think a proper penance would be to dye your hair the lovely lavender of your troll figure and leave it that way for at least a month.

  7. But lavender hair would only be half effective. You should also run around naked for a month.

  8. Sometimes it all depends on how well you "know" the recipient of the troll-ish remarks.If it's all about a sense of humour and a bit of a dig I say go for it.
    I'm not sure I'd appreciate this type of remark from a stranger though.
    Don't want to encourage you too much your behaviour is bad enough already !!

  9. Mr Pudding, I am shocked, simply shocked, that anyone would consider you a troll. Always and ever you have been the model of cordiality and affability on my (now defunct) blog. Inflammatory and foolish, you? Never!

    Your friend, Brad

  10. KATHERINE I look forward to your academic treatise on nomenclature.
    JENNY Phew! That's a relief - otherwise I might be expecting a court summons!
    JAN I don't believe you have a big butt! Do you mean a water butt? Please post photographic evidence... Regarding running around naked for a moth - no way! Butterflies yes but not moths.
    SHOOTING PEAS I shall contact my lawyer for in this modern day and age I demand peanut butter and strawberry jam on my bread! Will the hard labour involve reading the LibDem's election manifesto?
    JOHN GRAY Calling me "sweetie" has upset me!
    RHYMES WITH P I bought the hair dye and applied it as suggested but I have got the bloody stuff all over the bathroom floor and it won't come off.
    HELEN Please tell Tony that I am so sorry that Australia lost to Ireland on Saturday morning. Tee-hee!
    BRAD THE GORILLA (Former KING OF THE BLOGLAND!)So nice to discover that you have been released from the state penitentiary after all these months. I agree that I am usually "the model of cordiality and affability" and hope that other bloggers who come here take that wise observation on board.

  11. The true mark of a troll is anonymity, and although I now know the names Shirley, Frances, and Ian from your (***clearing the throat***) marvelous blog, 'twould be nice if we knew your own moniker.

  12. YP,
    If we're going to lose to anybody let it be Ireland. As long as it's not to the Kiwis! ( and that's always on the cards )

  13. I had those trolls too! Loved them! As for your thoroughly offensive comments on my blog - oh, do please continue or I'll be very cross with you.

  14. You're gentle humour isn't trolling. It's lovely and uplifting. I would give anything to see it again. Silence is the real cruelty and destroys well-being and emotional peace like nothing on this earth..


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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