Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Hack is an incredibly bothersome four letter word.

You ever have one of those coughs that never seem to go away... they just linger on... and every so often you'll have a hacking fit where you can't seem to stop coughing for five minutes?

Well I just wish it would go away already.

It is always interesting to see where a word goes when you're not paying attention to it.

I first thought of using hack today because of this cough, but I immediately thought of several other, completely different, meanings of the word.  And I just can't get them to fit together with each other, the meanings are so utterly different.

"A hack" has been a generic term referring to a taxi for quite some time.  Looking at the entymology, it seems that a "hack" refers to the "hackney carriage", which gets its name from the village name Hackney, which is now part of London, whence the carriage originated.

It isn't clear to me how this would relate to the use of the term "hack" when talking about an writer (or, indeed, anyone) doing dull, routine, and unoriginal work.  Are taxi drivers dull and routine? I just don't see the connection.

And neither of them seem to be connected to the original use of the term "hack" when applied to computers and technology.  Far from being dull, "hacks" were clever bits of inventions, used to demonstrate something particularly brilliant by the creator.  They were new solutions to problems, or any barrier to achieving the objective.  Nowadays, the term refers more to criminals than to any brilliant work.

And the dictionary is filled with several other definitions as well.

What an odd word.