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What It Means To Hack

When the film or tv industries create content about writers, they usually portray them as "men or women of words* (*) who nobly accept the challenge of writer's block and overcome this to great success often demonstrated by a giant sheaf of paper with their latest work beside an ancient typewriter. All of this is total bollocks of course, most novels exist only in computers until they are published. And heroic writers only exist in the minds of the writers who have written the story about the writers, and some of these writers are pretty ordinary writers, or to use the preferred term, hacks.

(*) I have deliberately omitted an option for the LGBT expanding alphabet community as they have yet to agree the correct way to describe a "pronoun of words".

This got me thinking. Hack. Hack is a word with several meanings. It is a word which has evolved into new applications. Hack, hacker, hacking. What is the history of the hack?

Hack is a term formerly used to describe a junk journalist and is often replaced by the equally disparaging terminology of "paparazzi" or "pap". This is related to the use of hack for a writer of average ability, as already mentioned. In this case, hack is distinct from the derivatives of hacker or hacking.

Another use of hack is to describe a procession of teenage girls on horseback plodding along somewhere at close to zero miles per hour, usually holding up traffic while they exercise their right to use the roads even though they avoid paying any form of road tax. Apparently this is "going for a hack" and it is great fun. If getting a sore backside and being bitten by hordes of flies on a walking gluepot is fun, you are welcome to it. A hacker will be a participant and hacking will be what they are doing.

In my youth, the term hack referred to the intention to kick an opponent on the football pitch, deliberately, and with a bit of venom. A hacker was a player recruited for the role of kicking opponents rather than for having any skill and hacking was the act of joyfully repeatedly kicking opponents.

Before the environmentalists became so high profile, people would regularly prune their trees and bushes. This would often require the green-fingered gardener to hack off a branch or branches to preserve the health of the shrubbery. Hack could be replaced by chop in this case but the reciprocal did not apply. Would you eat a pork hack rather than a pork chop? Hacker and hacking are appropriate in this case.

In terms of health, the act of dispensing phlegm from your throat might be a cough or even a retch, depending on the violence of the regurgitation, but it was also colloquially known as "hacking up a gooby" or other regional variant. Hack would only apply in future tense as in "I think I'm going to hack up a gooby" while hacker really did not apply.

Regrettably, the modern obscenity of celebrity chefs has also invaded the realm of the hack, bastardising the term to symbolise their kitchen hacks where they invent cooking shortcuts that everybody was probably using anyway. Whoever dreamt up the idea that chefs should be celebrities has an awful lot to answer for. Hacker doesn't fit this use but hacking could be used at a stretch. The only hacking I want to do with a celebrity chef involves one of their very sharp knives and a splattered apron.

For those of us with a nervous disposition, there is a slang term often used in the Celtic countries which refers to the coping mechanism. "I cannae hack it" would suggest that the person will be unable to cope with the current circumstances. Neither of the popular derivatives can be used here. Of course, the phrase could also mean that a tree branch was overly robust for the blunt axe being used and that the chopping could not be achieved. Sometimes we have to interpret the phrase and seek meaning from the context.

There was a boy at my school. His name was Davie Hacker and he was cool. Even kids who didn't know him were aware of how cool he was. It was all in his name. Davie Hacker, cool name, cool bloke. His burgeoning teenage development was impeded by his mother's decision to re-marry and take her new husband's name. Cool Davie Hacker became invisible Davie Mills. His fall from grace was absolute. From having a series of hot girlfriends, he became the guy who bought a book on hypnosis hoping it would help him with the ladies. (Footnote - it worked.)

The term hacker is now almost universally used to describe those sad little masturbating bum-holes who sit in dark rooms trying to access normal people's computers with the intention of stealing identities or emptying bank accounts. Of course, Hollywood has glamourised what they do, but at the end of the day, they do very little which can be regarded as positive. They hack into our privacy, they spend all their time hacking (apart from the aforementioned solo sexual activity) and are collectively known as hackers.

Of all the uses of hack/hacker/hacking, computer hackers are the lowest of the low. I would happily hack their fingers off given half a chance. Although if they have read any of my novels, they might also want to do the same thing.


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