45, a.k.a. Cheeto, a.k.a. the Manchurian Combover
October 22, 2018 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Voldemorting: The act of never speaking the name of someone truly terrible. E.g. ‘Don’t bother sending me those links, I’m Voldemorting those losers!’
Wired's Resident Linguist Gretchen McCulloch writes about the "anti-SEO" practice of using different names for entities whose attention you don't want to attract.
posted by Etrigan (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I call him Turnip.
posted by me3dia at 10:51 AM on October 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Man O' man.
posted by clavdivs at 10:52 AM on October 22, 2018


We have a former co-worker that we refer to as "He who shall not be named." He did real bad things. When he showed up that is.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:52 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Cannot the "networks that work too well" (Emily van der Nagel, Media International Australia, Volume: 168 issue: 1, page(s): 81-92) simply learn the new phrases, in a kind of euphemism treadmill?

It's not obscure what "birdsite" refers to.

Why is the internet particularly good at this kind of mass verbal dexterity?

We write for fun. Someone-who-I-cannot-even-name on this here unheralded blue hellsite remarked a while back that this textual medium allowed for, even encouraged, dense, layered, meta-textual jokes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:54 AM on October 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


I wish this had talked a little bit more about the fear of swatting and harassment that prompts people to censor GamerGate and similar. It's not the suspicion that bad stuff could happen if you say the name, but the understanding that bad things have happened to others.
posted by bagel at 10:56 AM on October 22, 2018 [32 favorites]


In conjunction with bagel, it was odd that they hardly discussed the typographical voldemorting that can be done by writing c0micsg*te or g a m e r g a t e or whatever.

But it looked like they were trying to write a lighthearted discussion of an emerging internet thing for the non-internet person, which is basically Wired's whole deal.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:59 AM on October 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


I just met Gretchen last month and she is rad! Also she has a delightful podcast with fellow linguist Lauren Gawne called Lingthusiasm.
posted by cortex at 11:00 AM on October 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


Cannot the "networks that work too well" (Emily van der Nagel, Media International Australia, Volume: 168 issue: 1, page(s): 81-92) simply learn the new phrases, in a kind of euphemism treadmill?

Probably, but the signal-noise ratio is important. A keyword search for "45" is going to need a a lot of manual filtering if you want to feed it into a Twitter bot that harasses people for disparaging The Orange Menace.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:01 AM on October 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I used to have a coworkers that we all referred to as "Three-head" and it wasn't until years later that I realized that it was some bullying behaviour and it was pretty crazy what huge dicks we were about just calling him by his name. He did nothing to deserve it except for having a three-head.
posted by GuyZero at 11:04 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Even Metafilter has to aggressively strip characters to prevent һοmоɡlγрh attacks in titles and tags.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:05 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


I wish this had talked a little bit more about the fear of swatting and harassment that prompts people to censor GamerGate and similar.

Sort of gets a brief mention:

On the internet there's no such thing as a tracing spell, but there's something almost as effective: search algorithms. Plugging a distinctive name into a search box lets us track mentions around the web. I could set up a Google Alert to email me every time a website mentions my name, or simply do a periodic Twitter search for myself or my favorite celebrity, so I can ride to my or their defense if someone says something negative.

But it’s with such a half chuckle and lack of teeth that it’s almost painting anybody worried about that as silly. Renders the whole article worthless, frankly. Maybe worse than worthless.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Having read the OP, meh, I dunno. It just seems like cool kids coining new names for things rather than some elaborate anti-SEO tactic. The anti-SEO-ness is incidental rather than the actual purpose.
posted by GuyZero at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah "Anti-SEO" does make me think of that sort of thing, avoiding the rampant attention of gators and stans of whatever you're talking about. I have seen a lot of people on Twitter using stuff like El*on M*usk or GooberGag which may serve a practical purpose of not showing up in specific searches.
posted by RobotHero at 11:15 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


In my biz, you often run into a situation where the short-hand or code-named version for a feature or project becomes THE name out of nothing more than inertia. "Everyone here was just calling it X, and the name kinda stuck. Oh well."

I'm convinced this explains why this big, showstopper, multi-million dollar scene has the uninspiring name, "The Loot Train Attack." As opposed the catchy and alliterative "Battle of the Bastards."

So, in my biz, we deal with this by going out of our way to give things very obviously useless names, something you couldn't possibly use by accident. This is why we have a projects called "Falcon Horse" and "Laser Shark." There's no actual horses, falcons, lasers or sharks anywhere near them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hasn’t Judaism been doing this for thousands of years?
posted by furtive at 11:25 AM on October 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


on all the lists I subscribe to nobody will ever just say "ebay" it's always "the auction site" or some such synonym. when asked, people have said "I don't want to give them free advertising". nobody ever says that about google on the same lists.
posted by Dr. Twist at 11:28 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


As someone who's entire connection to Harry Potter is, "a couple of films I mostly slept through on an airplane," I appreciate the detailed explanation. Neat!

As someone who is often utterly dumbfounded by what people I respect say on the bird site, I wish more people provided as much context. (60% of the time, the answer turns out to be, "oh, some sports-related thing I don't actually want to understand. Why'd you waste my time forcing me to look up what you're talking about?")
posted by eotvos at 11:28 AM on October 22, 2018


> This is why we have a projects called "Falcon Horse" and "Laser Shark." There's no actual horses, falcons, lasers or sharks anywhere near them.

Application withdrawn.
posted by rokusan at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2018 [17 favorites]


I have a visceral reaction for some reason for writing his name. I have a word replacement add-on in my browser. At the moment he's Mick Hucknall.
posted by daybeforetheday at 11:48 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah "Anti-SEO" does make me think of that sort of thing, avoiding the rampant attention of gators and stans of whatever you're talking about. I have seen a lot of people on Twitter using stuff like El*on M*usk or GooberGag which may serve a practical purpose of not showing up in specific searches.

I also note that a lot of the pet names from Trump that actually stuck -- i.e., most of the ones that aren't "Drumpf" -- seems to have originated in Black Twitter. "45" and "Cheeto", in particular, were by far the most common form of address for him amongst the Black Twitter folks I used to follow, way more than his actual name. (Whereas it was mostly if not exclusively white folks doing the whole "LOL, he's not Voldemort, just say his name!" thing.)

What do I point this out? Well, because Black Twitter are always the first targets of these automated harassment campaigns, not to mention the malicious false reporting campaigns that run alongside them. And hence they're also the first ones developing defenses against those campaigns.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:49 AM on October 22, 2018 [17 favorites]


The Scottish Play.
posted by adamvasco at 12:00 PM on October 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


Reminds me of the legend of Candle Jack. Although I still don't get what was supposed to happen if y
posted by delfin at 12:04 PM on October 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


Manchurian Combover

brilliant LOL
posted by supermedusa at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


GuyZero's point about coworkers definitely jibes with feelings I have about misapplying this practice. Sometimes, you give things power or distort perceptions by using in-group talk. I have a coworker who's been kind of a thorn in my side lately but using some variation of "you know who" isn't going to help anyone. I just use their name, and keep any specific grievances in the right scope -- making it into some bizarre us versus them trope isn't a healthy dynamic.

Speaking in a completely ungrouped format like twitter is a different thing. Outside of taking your account private, your content is searchable across the site, and it's a complete pain. You can't form in-groups with any sort of protection even if you try, because there are a bunch of malcontents who search every variation of their own name across the site and throw up the flag to start brigading your posts. Make the mistake of tweeting about this week's controversial figure and you end up with a hundred low-content users replying to you and reporting your posts as threats.
posted by mikeh at 12:36 PM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


It just seems like cool kids coining new names for things rather than some elaborate anti-SEO tactic. The anti-SEO-ness is incidental rather than the actual purpose.

Having seen some of the other comments on trying to avoid brigading, I totally get it, but generally anti-brigading naming is pretty obvious - "T*ylor S*ift" isn't exactly Voldemorting and it's not anti-SEO so much as just trying to avoid vanilla searches made by mad stans.

I'm not really sure there's a huge trend here outside of people calling the Cheeto "The Cheeto".
posted by GuyZero at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hasn’t Judaism been doing this for thousands of years?
posted by furtive at 2:25 PM

Or, or; 'The Chisel's of Horemheb'.
posted by clavdivs at 12:50 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


> on all the lists I subscribe to nobody will ever just say "ebay" it's always "the auction site" or some such synonym.

I never understood that. I see it here too occasionally. Why are people so anti-ebay? Genuinely asking.
posted by scose at 1:06 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hasn’t Judaism been doing this for thousands of years?

Yeah, at least three things come to mind: the Judaic practice of referring G-d, JHVH, Adonai, etc.; the anti-Semitic/white supremacist dogwhistling of ((( x ))); and the way many European languages have euphemisms for dangerous animals (several Slavic languages have a word for bear that comes from medved, "honey," because it is less dangerous to refer to the bear that way. I suppose the ancient Greek habit of calling the Furies "The Kindly Ones" or the way the Irish referred to the fae as "the fair folk."

I guess what I am saying is that once you have enough general knowledge cluttering your mind in a Collyer-house-like untidy collection of facts, you must be prepared for the occasional avalanche.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


I do this! I refuse to say the cheto’s name out loud, I think it makes his ego grow somehow.
I call him the nazi gremlin instead.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:16 PM on October 22, 2018


I'm fully on-board with not saying certain things to avoid being harassed. At least one old friend of mine has been harassed and stalked online for over a decade by a well-known/infamous mid-level SFF writer. The dude has alerts set up for his name, and for variations of his name that people have used to talk about him without letting him know. People try to warn each other about him, and he always, always finds out. Inevitably he shows up, barges into the conversation, and derails it comprehensively. He's a complete asshole, and it makes perfect sense for people to avoid using his name.

(If you're familiar with SFF fandom, it's the dude who "marched with MLK", claims his life would be just the same if he had been born black, and called President Obama a "house n-----" on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog.)
posted by suelac at 1:40 PM on October 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


I call him Turnip.

Heh, I find it easiest to just drop the "T", it kind of sums him up perfectly.

And, here in Onterrible, we recently elected another "Floored".
posted by jkaczor at 1:47 PM on October 22, 2018


And, here in Onterrible, we recently elected another "Floored".

While Doug Ford's name does resolve quite easily to [thug/drug] [fraud], I personally do not go for it. I have noticed in the rhetorical phantasmagoria that are news sites comments section, conservatives seem to have a very hard time not typing LIEberals or referring to the prime minister as Turdeau, or whatever.

I last found wordplay connecting a name with something dirty or smelly to be an effective tactic on the playground at about age eight. Maybe that is where we left conservatives behind. Right about there.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:40 PM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Since early 2016 I've been using the Some Rich Asshole chrome extension. I not only don't like to say the name, I don't even like to read it. It's not a joke, it's important to my sanity.

The Firefox add-on is even more creative, changing it with all kinds of crap like Orange Shitgibbon, etc. but I'm partial to the simplicity of Some Rich Asshole.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:00 PM on October 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I just say "the current occupant of the White House," as he's done jack-squat-diddly to earn the title of "President," and it helps me remember that he will be gone one day. He's not going to be some kind of eternal dictator, 'cause he's an unhealthy man with unhealthy habits who doesn't get much sleep and is prone to fits of rage. He will pass, like a kidney stone.

I just hope the damage is reversible.
posted by RakDaddy at 8:48 PM on October 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean, there are more funny and insulting nicknames for Trump already than for any other President, I am sure, and I might even put a marker down that he has more than all other Presidents combined.
posted by rokusan at 9:11 PM on October 22, 2018


I do this regularly. I think my usual motivation is something like 30% friend-group lingo humor value, 50% knowing that viral/social/sentiment-analysis marketing are A Thing and that we've reached a point where even mentioning something by name can boost its reputation or get me ad-targeted, and 20% still being disproportionately annoyed that my phone keyboard has a list of Brands that it will forcibly capitalize.
posted by cwill at 8:16 AM on October 23, 2018


I never understood that. I see it here too occasionally. Why are people so anti-ebay? Genuinely asking

so, for me and others in the test and measurement community and extremely technical hobbies, ebay is the defacto marketplace for used gear. ebay charges very large commissions, and on gear that's in the multi thousand dollar range it eats a large chunk of whatever profit you might have made from selling any of your gear. It also encourages price inflation and discourages competition, making expensive gear even more so.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


the anti-Semitic/white supremacist dogwhistling of ((( x )))

Some MeFites are helping me report these assholes. We've found several other dogwhistles, including juice, joos, merchants and goblin nose.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:09 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I totally get it, but generally anti-brigading naming is pretty obvious - "T*ylor S*ift" isn't exactly Voldemorting and it's not anti-SEO so much as just trying to avoid vanilla searches made by mad stans.

How is that not anti-SEO? It's altering your content in a way intended to make it harder to find in search engines. SEO tries to do the opposite.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:24 AM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


scose: "Why are people so anti-ebay?"

I'm just anti monopoly.
posted by Mitheral at 1:07 PM on October 23, 2018


I've been using the suggestion that we refer to him as The Head of the GOP, as they are going to try to distance themselves from him when he stops being useful.

It's a good reminder that they are his brand and he is theirs, and it removes the vanity of his name.

He Who Shall Not Be Named indeed...
posted by CheapB at 12:24 AM on October 24, 2018


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