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Word for the Wise October 19, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Troll

An internet friend curious about the metaphoric troll — is one trolling or trawling when one is casting about indiscriminately for information online?—dropped us a line asking us to tackle the topic of that intransitive verb. (来源:http://www.EnglishCN.com)

Troll is the older of the two verbs; it dates to the 15th century and is believed to have an ancestor in a Middle English verb meaning "to ramble; roll." Early on, to troll was "to move around; circulate; roll." Troll also came to mean "to sing or play in a jovial manner" and "to speak rapidly."

Then there's the troll associated with fishing. To troll is "to fish, especially by drawing a hook along or through the water with a line behind a moving boat."

Then there's trawl. That 16th century coinage is thought to come from a Middle Dutch word meaning "dragnet." To trawl is "to fish or catch fish with a trawl, a large conical net with a device for keeping its mouth open that is dragged along the sea bottom in gathering fish or other marine life."

So which is the proper word when talking about casting a wide net in the hope of capturing something useful, if not edible? While trawl is the usual choice, the O-L-L troll also has an established transitive sense meaning "to search in or at." So one might trawl for information but troll the database.

 
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