Words in the News


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Facebook has been in the news this week after leaked documents revealed the pressures on its moderators, those whose job is to ensure that unacceptable content is removed promptly from the social networking site.

The noun moderator and the related verb moderate have deep roots in English, being of Latin origin and used as early as the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Both have multiple meanings, but acquired new ones with the growth of the internet, first in online discussion groups and then in reference to the monitoring of online content of all kinds.

Both verb and noun are frequently shortened to mod, a word previously associated mostly with well-groomed young people in the mid 20th century who liked to ride scooters and listen to soul music. This set them apart from rockers, who wore leather, rode motorbikes and  listened to, you guessed it, rock music; sometimes the two tribes would clash, especially on bank holidays by the seaside.

The youth subculture meaning of mod is an abbreviation of the adjective modern, which has a different but no less ancient root than moderate and moderator. It is probable that the more recent meanings of these words will become increasingly frequent as the online world plays an ever greater part in our lives, maybe even eclipsing the earlier meanings.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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