flame 1. vi. To post an email message intended to insult
and provoke. 2. vi. To speak incessantly and/or rabidly on some
relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous
attitude. 3. vt. Either of senses 1 or 2, directed with hostility
at a particular person or people. 4. n. An instance of flaming.
When a discussion degenerates into useless controversy, one might
tell the participants "Now you're just flaming" or "Stop all
that flamage!" to try to get them to cool down (so to speak).
The term may have been independently invented at several different
places. It has been reported from MIT, Carleton College and RPI
(among many other places) from as far back as 1969.
It is possible that the hackish sense of `flame' is much older than
that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in
his time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced
computing device of the day. In Chaucer's "Troilus and
Cressida", Cressida laments her inability to grasp the proof of a
particular mathematical theorem; her uncle Pandarus then observes
that it's called "the fleminge of wrecches." This phrase seems
to have been intended in context as "that which puts the wretches
to flight" but was probably just as ambiguous in Middle English as
"the flaming of wretches" would be today. One suspects that
Chaucer would feel right at home on Usenet.
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