on Jun 15, 2008
I was on the phone the other day with a friend, who was explaining a bit about how leveling works in WoW. I just didn’t get how “the game begins at level 70”, since that’s when you hit max level.
I was still trying to wrap my head around it when I asked, “So you still keep ‘growing’ in power even after you hit max level?”
He replied, “Oh yeah. If you just ran into Karazhan as soon as you ding 70, you’d get completely pwned. You have to work your way-“
“Hang on a second”, I stopped him, “Did you just say ‘pwned’?”
“Yeah I did.”
“I’m sorry. But you gotta put a quarter in the dork jar.”
This was the first time I’ve heard the word used conversationally, although I’ve seen it written a thousand times.
Language is, of course, changing all the time. Just during my teenage years several words were hijacked by teenagers: Cool, Wicked, Radical, Awesome. All of them were stripped of their original meanings and repurposed as synonyms for “something I like or which I find interesting”.
Pwned is an interesting one. (Doesn’t it look funny to properly capitalize it and punctuate around the word like that?) A few years ago people started using “owned” to mean “defeated”. Probably this arose from something like, “He owns your ass”, giving the idea that not only did the other person win, but they so fully dominated that the loser was helpless. That phrase was shortened to simply “owned” and then morphed into “pwned”, a typo of the same which rose up when 1337speak was all the rage, and which is now mostly used ironically.
I’m only 36, so I don’t quite have enough time as an adult to properly judge, but it seems like language is becoming more volatile due to the internet. Even ignoring the onslaught of new technology-related words, it seems like English is morphing faster than it did when I was younger. Words are coming and going faster and shifting their meanings more abruptly. Maybe I’m just a little less malleable than I used to be, and so the changes seem swifter, I’m not sure. Maybe someone closer to fifty can appraise this and compare things to how they’ve been over the last thirty years.
And now apparently people walk around saying the word pwned in day-to-day speech.
What a bunch of llamas.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.