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Eric: Put another way, calling an e-mail server a "digital courier" doesn't change the nature of e-mail -- it just confuses people. Which may be the point. Damn, my titles are getting long.

So, every so often, you read something that makes you squint at the monitor and think "people have actually devoted time and effort to this?"

I had one of those tonight, via Boing Boing.

You see, in the latest Wired... or at least on Wired.com, they had an article declaring that the term "Cyberspace" was dead. Which I think we'd all figured out some time ago. And they had a roundtable to figure out a better word... a more twenty-first century word for what Cyberspace used to mean. And they consulted William Gibson (who came up with the term in the first place), other authors, venture capitalists, futurists, university people.. all kinds of folks to coin the next term for this, our shared electronic identity.

Well, way back in my first post on Websnark, I suggested that "Websurfing" should be replaced with "Powerslacking," since that's what we were doing. And so naturally I considered the question of what magical Word described our electronic infotastic webnetular universe.

And realized, almost immediately, that the whole concept is stupid.

When Neuromancer came out, it made perfect sense that Gibson would find a term for this shared universe of electronic virtuality he had posited. Especially since he didn't understand Information Technology of the time to begin with, so it was more shamanic higher spaces than information sharing. But in case you came in late, that was 1984 when that was published. Since then, we've had entire generations of people born, raised and developed inside of the electronic world. We are no longer discussing science fiction. The digital lifestyle is already here. And we have a word.

Not Cyberspace. And not the terms Gibson and the others came up with (like "Global Brain," "Infosphere," or Cory Doctorow's "Chattergoods"). No, we have a term that means "reading my electronic mail," "peer-to-peer filesharing," "bittorrent," "blogging," "googling for stuff," "surfing," "powerslacking," "buying shit from Amazon.com" and "checking out sweet alt-porn chicks" all at once. And it's a term pretty much every person with any exposure to that thing we used to call the Information Superhighway understands implicitly.

What is that term?



My father is a wise man. A good man. A learned man. He is a retired professor and dean. He has a Ph.D. And he has the computer skills of a rutabaga. I say this with love. He can learn, but it takes him time and effort, and it will never come naturally to him.

And yet, he says "all right, I'm going Online. Now--" when he describes a problem he's having. He gets the difference between online and offline.

When we play City of Heroes or World of Warcraft, we're generally not checking our mail or surfing the web. But we know each and every one of those activities is Online. We know that Google is an Online Resource we can use to search all the stuff Online and find what we need. And the things we do Online are many and varied, and exist right now.

Hell -- I have Voice over IP Telephony. I get my phone calls Online now.

This isn't science fiction. This isn't the future. This isn't (God help us) a brave new world Venture Capitalists can fund. This is today. We're already here. And we know what we mean when we use the word "Online."

I'm sorry. I'm sorry it's not as romantic as "Cyberspace" was, back in 1984. I'm sorry it doesn't excite the blood and found a new digital revolution. The thing is? We had the digital revolution. All apologies to "Web 2.0," but that revolution is over. The Online world is a part of the overall world now, and people have both expectations of and for it.

There will come new technologies that will blow us out of the water. I'm sure of that fact. There always are. But those technologies won't be a new kind of "Cyberspace" that will change everything, because we've already done that. Coming up with a new term for "Cyberspace" won't renew that sense of excitement and mystery for the digital world. It just sounds like people can't get over the dot com bust, and Jesus people that was how many years ago?

People get it. They know what Online means. They go Online right now, to do all kinds of shit. When you come up with more shit for them to do Online, they'll do it. But the sheer fact that this is Online won't excite them any more.

Still, I think Powerslacking can have legs. Don't you?

Posted by Eric Burns-White at February 6, 2006 8:03 PM


Comment from: Ceejamon posted at February 6, 2006 8:20 PM

Powerslacking has now officially been added to my everyday vocabulary. The question that remains is it's proper form. Is it Powerslacking, PowerSlacking, or Power-Slacking?

Or hell, for us Mac users, could it perhaps be iSlacking? That kinda has a nice ring to it...

Comment from: larksilver posted at February 6, 2006 8:20 PM

Powerslacking is fun, and entirely too accurate.. but it's not something I can say to my boss. If I *have* to admit to being online at work, I try hard to always have an excuse for "research."

Fortunately, there's always something I should be looking to buy, or information to acquire... blah blah blah.

Comment from: Tim Tylor posted at February 6, 2006 8:44 PM

"Cyberspace" makes me think of the Gibsonite idea of people running around a virtual data city with all the databases located at their own virtual street addresses. It made for some beautiful images, but I think it missed the point by miles. Telegraph, telephone, LANs and WANs and the big Internet all acted to overcome geography for the end-users, all meant less running-around. You don't fool around a 3D virtual maze to make a connection on the phone, you just type in a number.

Comment from: Montykins posted at February 6, 2006 8:51 PM

Anyway, it's not really Cyberspace until I can jack in through a port at the back of my head.

Comment from: Tangent posted at February 6, 2006 8:53 PM

Once again, dads everywhere prove they know more than their kids. :D

On-line. That works on so many levels. :)

Rob H., Tangents

Comment from: kirabug posted at February 6, 2006 9:02 PM

People get it. They know what Online means. They go Online right now, to do all kinds of shit.
Oh Jesus, I wish they did.

"Sir, we just need to check some of your Internet settings, so click your Start menu, then choose "Control Panel...."

"But I can't be on the Internet while I'm on the phone."

"You're not on the Internet yet."

"But I can see my screensaver."

"That's your desktop background, sir, and it has nothing to do with the Internet."

"But I downloaded it."


continue ad nauseum, 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

PLEASE can they all figure out when they're Online???

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at February 6, 2006 9:10 PM

As much fun as powerslacking is, I can't see myself ever actually using. As for whatever word they come up with to replace cyberspace (I'd almost forgot about 'cyberspace' until I read this), I can only see it being used ironicaly (not real irony, the fasionable irony).

Comment from: Tyck posted at February 6, 2006 9:25 PM

I don't have the words to say what I want..so I'll make a clumsy analogy.

Remember when the word for somebody new to something was the simple newb? Itself a product of online language? Then the Counter Strike and AOL-speke people got ahold of it, and we got n00b, or noob. Now I'm told the preferred mutation is "nub". And since I know that, and I'm nowhere near the front lines of places where this brand of language evolves, it's probably something altogether different by now. The point is groups develop their own language, slangs and jargon that let the user show off group membership. "Cyberspace" used to be part of that slang, although I'm not sure for what group; possibly people who wanted the Internet to be the catalyst of a miraculous utopian revolution instead of the mundane miracle it turned out to be. The search for the next cyberspace may just be an attempt to recapture that sense of forward-looking visionary.

..I don't know if I managed to convey any sort of point. Ah, well. Back to powerslacking.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at February 6, 2006 9:34 PM

So far, the best user reaction I've ever had to a support problem (well, in retrospect) was this one guy, for whom English was very much a second language, irate that his Win95 display drivers were corrupted or something:


Even better was getting mail a week later from a buddy to whom I'd related the incident, and discovering that the freenet for whom he volunteered had taken "put eeeeenternet on my computer" on as a codephrase, specifically in a Peter Lorre accent.

Comment from: jpcardier posted at February 6, 2006 9:42 PM

My wife, who is one of the smartest peipMy wife, who is one of the smartest people I know, and sells weekly on eBay, continually mixes up "Online" and "Offline". Drives the pedant in me crazy....

"I'll get it for you Offline." "No, you mean Online". "Yes, that's what I meant, what's the problem?" "You said Offline, not Online." "You knew what I meant, isn't that what's important?" "Arghhh!"

In the same vein, my boss refers to downloading as uploading, and vice versa.....

Comment from: Denyer posted at February 6, 2006 10:12 PM

the sheer fact that this is Online won't excite them any more.

Mmm... sometimes the point still gets hammered home, even after ten years (roughly how long it's been since I did anything online. Eesh. And I came in late, way after stuff like blazing fast 300 baud.) Things like lists of international mirrors on Sourceforge, which I tend to click at random. "This file's coming from Australia. This one from Japan." Even knowing that, for a popular file, it may more likely be coming out of a cache in Birmingham with just a token check at the other end to verify the file hasn't changed, it's still impressive.

If 'cyberspace' is redundant, can we keep 'meatspace'?

Comment from: miyaa posted at February 6, 2006 10:16 PM

Wednesday: I think this explains the phrase "You win the Internet" a lot clearer to me now. (Most often seen by Asian posters trying to write in Engrish.) But I have to agree with the guy, I hate 'Safe Mode' too.

Considering how many people believe the future isn't in the computer, but in the handheld devices like Palms and iPod, should this be called "Podslacking?"

Comment from: lucastds posted at February 6, 2006 10:24 PM

Why is it that in order to sound cool and technologically-savvy, people have this absured need to merge words together to produce extremely annoying iWords and Podlanguage? Can't we just use English?

Comment from: lucastds posted at February 6, 2006 10:25 PM

And yes, I am aware that I made a few spelling errors above. However, no edit feature exists in this program. Which is annoying AND absurEd.

Comment from: Pyrthas posted at February 6, 2006 10:30 PM

Um, I don't think that "You win the internet" has much at all to do with being Asian. It might have started out as broken English, but it's fairly firmly entrenched these days in what I guess is still referred to as "leet," but which really needs a better title. (I say that because it seems as though there really is a dialect (language? I don't know) that gets used online, with its own grammar, which would be kind of interesting to study (but I work a little in linguistics, and then it's in formal semantics, so I'm not really well-equipped to study it). And before it comes up, I'm not endorsing general illiteracy. I am, in fact, a snob about proper spelling and (especially) grammar; Just ask my students in a few weeks when they get their first papers back.)

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at February 6, 2006 10:42 PM

I vote for calling it "The Digitiverse."

And if you are in the United States, "The Digitiverse, USA."

Comment from: quiller posted at February 6, 2006 11:01 PM

I've always associated "You win the Internet" with the joke/slogan/t-shirt "I beat the internet last night. The end boss was tough." But it does have that Zero Wing feel to it.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at February 6, 2006 11:20 PM

1)"This isn't (God help us) a brave new world Venture Capitalists can fund."
What's wrong with a brave new world? At least, of all the antiutopian novels out there, that one actually had some literary and philosophical value. It's a lot better than Rand, who only works with twelve rate intellectuals, or Orwell, who only treaded on the most obvious of points.

2) every science fiction writer that posits a new frontier always gets the prime aspects wrong. Gibson posited that the worldwide digital connection would look like some kind of virtual reality. This is no different than Aasimov predicting robots that could successfully move through a 3D environment and have favorite childhood stories, but couldn't speak (remember I, robot?). Why? Because what will be hard for a new technology and what will be easy isn't obvious until the technology exists. Gibson was right, after all, that much of people's time online would be spent on scams designed to take down major corporations, or for stoners to stare at women's pubic hair. I just realized that no one had said that he was in some way foolish for making these predictions, but I will leave my defense of him in this post in case anyone chooses to do so.

3) When something is new and high tech, it needs a "new frontier" type of title. Once the masses have accepted it, there is no need for some fancy term deliniating it as a new paradigm. The revolution is over, it's no longer, "the new regime," it's the, "current regime," and the status quo doesn't need a title.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 6, 2006 11:31 PM

1)"This isn't (God help us) a brave new world Venture Capitalists can fund."

What's wrong with a brave new world? At least, of all the antiutopian novels out there, that one actually had some literary and philosophical value. It's a lot better than Rand, who only works with twelve rate intellectuals, or Orwell, who only treaded on the most obvious of points.

Of course, Brave New World was Huxley, not Rand or Orwell, but we digress.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a brave new world, with innovations, or with new ways of doing things.

Venture Capitalists are not, however, in the habits of funding those new worlds. They are in the habits of funding Brave New WorldsŁ, which package Revolutionary IdeasŁ that will Change EverythingŁ in either highly predictable or utterly impractical ways.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at February 6, 2006 11:36 PM

In college, we had an alternate phrasing: I'm going to download the Internet. This came from one friend, who worked for the campus computing center early in her college career. One person she helped out asked afterwards if they were then able to download the Internet.

This naturally spawned a whole series of jokes in my social circle. "I haven't seen that web page yet... time to download a new Internet."

My only problem with powerslacking is... well... where's the power? Powerslacking makes me feel like I should be riding atop of a bullet train, which instantly gives me an erection comparable to the mighty sequoias. And I will use the might of this arboreal phallus to not only procrastinate, but encourage others to procrastinate and be joyous.

Instead, I find myself making sure nobody around is watching me do price comparisons for a Japanese game in which you have to keep your girlfriend happy or else she literally destroys the Earth. (In case you think I'm joking, look up She: the Ultimate Weapon for PS2. Konami makes it.)

I'm personally more fond of eSloth myself. I think it encapsules the entire concept very neatly.

Though Eric, you do remind me of one of the things I always hated about Wired: their addiction to creating neologisms. Even if a concept already has a perfectly good word associated with it, they desperately feel the need to come up with another. When I think a writer or group of writers is indulging a pretentious habit, you know they're going too far.

Comment from: Denyer posted at February 6, 2006 11:44 PM

people have this absured need to merge words together to produce extremely annoying iWords and Podlanguage? Can't we just use English?

English comes in part from a Germanic tradition, and it still merges stuff all the time, we're just a bit desensitised. Cupboard, bookcase, backrub, paperback, and some dialects merge more words than others: tallglass, firewine, candlewick.

Reasons for "new" words include legal (dictionary words have lesser protection in trademark form), and simply jarring the viewer -- readathon, blogosphere, fanwank. Add in the social factors such as pretentious tossers wanting a slang to keep the "un-hip" out (not always; many compound words form as abbreviations and shortcuts) and word elision isn't going anywhere in a hurry.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at February 6, 2006 11:45 PM

I still like E-zone. E-ZONE MUTHABITCHES!

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at February 7, 2006 12:33 AM

I'm personally more fond of eSloth myself.

Well, that sounds more like a noun. As in "The eSloth is powerslacking."

Personally, I tend to save the more...esoteric words (bogosphere, et. al.) for use as sarcastic mockery. It's almost like an in-joke.

Comment from: lucastds posted at February 7, 2006 1:14 AM

what we need here is synergy.


Comment from: Wednesday White posted at February 7, 2006 2:11 AM

No. No no no. No no. No.

You see, you bring Synergy into it and it's only a matter of time before we start getting jokes about the Evil Eric Raymond. It is not showtime, it is not truly outrageous, these are not the earrings you're looking for.

Comment from: miyaa posted at February 7, 2006 4:28 AM

Kind of reminds me of the twin languages I hear about. You know, how most identical twins (and some fraternal) ones develop their own language mostly for the sake of getting around having their parents overhear them.

I find it interesting because my mother has a twin brother, and there's about a 75% that any offspring I help beget are going to be twins or higher multiple births. Thank god I don't have a twin brother. I can't stand myself as it is.

Comment from: TasteMyHouse posted at February 7, 2006 5:23 AM


/how many of you get this?

Comment from: Fangz posted at February 7, 2006 6:32 AM

Huh? I don't they 'You win the internet' has anything to do with leet, or bad English, or anything. It's perfectly good English. It's simply a sarcastic remark made to attack those who deal with online communities in too competitive a manner - as though it was a sport or game.

After a long argument, an onlooker may return an exultant victor to Earth with:

'Well done. You win the internet.'

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at February 7, 2006 7:05 AM

In *my* online circles, "You win the Internet" is a slightly exaggerated but sincere praise. It means roughly "What you just said is really clever and funny". No sarcasm about it.

Comment from: Misha Grin posted at February 7, 2006 8:15 AM

In plotting out an eventual Shadowrun-esque plot-arch of C-G (may or may not ever happen now), we were trying to come up with an alternative to "the Matrix" and the best we could come up with was "Cyberspace." Kinda forgot that's one of Gibson's babies, too. I don't think "Online" would work, but maybe "The Online?" Nah... too obscure... Hmmm...

As for "You win the Internet," my social circle has taken it one step further. We found ourselves saying it 'offline' so much, we began just saying "That's it! You win Life!"

Comment from: Bahimiron posted at February 7, 2006 9:27 AM

There's always Otherworld.

Or the Metaverse.

Comment from: Bahimiron posted at February 7, 2006 9:37 AM


Son of a biscuit, I meant Otherland.

Just call the internet the Sea of Silver Light. That's musical.

Or the Dreaming.

"You win the Internet" is less a 'leet' thing than it is a 'forum' thing. Which, to a degree, can be seen as stemming from the 'leet' thing. Inasmuch as certain forums, such as Fark and Something Awful, contain at their core a large number of people willing to adopt 'leet' for ironical purposes, then accidently end up using it seriously.

Oh, and...


Comment from: Valis posted at February 7, 2006 10:26 AM


I actually picked up "You win the internet" over at 4chan (god help me I am an admitted pervert), which is the Engish version of hentai imageboard 2chan. It's run by or otherwise connected to Something Awful in one way or another.
Brief crash course for those who don't frequent hentai imageboards.

Anyway, over at 4chan, you will probably see a variation of "You win the internet" more often than the actual thing: "One free internet for you" - or, alternatively, a ridiculously high number. It's used sincerely when a user posts a particularly good image, identifies the source of a desired image, or posts a requested torrent. In the case of an image, it is often said to be "made of win and good".

Alternatively when a user posts an image met with distaste, misidentifies an artist, or asks for the source of an image most 4channers think sie should be able to identify, they usually respond with "You fail at the internet" or simply "Sorry, but fail."

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at February 7, 2006 10:32 AM

The bad part is that I thought TasteMyHouse wanted to talk Parisian airports.

I'm so tempted to write up on the four stages of Internet speech. Those stages being elitism, pretense, parody, and acceptance.

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at February 7, 2006 10:41 AM

I remember reading an article in Yahoo Internet Life like ten years ago that pointed out how dead all things "cyber" are. The article's point was that in 1900, you may have walked into a room and asked if it was "electrified" but you would hardly do that now. Ditto for "cyber"

So, um, Wired go scooped by Yahoo Internet Life by about a decade.

Comment from: Scarybug posted at February 7, 2006 10:47 AM

Web 2.0 may be dead, but I still have high hopes for the Croquet Project. It's a P2P 3D space you can build from inside, and you can open up windows that display stuff from your desktop (Including any web browser) Just like Reboot!

I just call the 3D cyberspace in my comic "The Internet" (or "The Interweb" or "The Intermotron"). That way I can still make URL jokes.

Comment from: DarkStar posted at February 7, 2006 11:09 AM

I think that what the good people of BoingBoing and Wired are seeing (albeit, obliquely) is the fact that Cyberspace no longer defines the Internet and computer based interactions because they are not independent from everyday life.

Back in 1984, when this all started, it was taken for granted that you would have Real Space and Computer Space (whether online or off). They expected that there would be separate, defined, and (for the most part) independent areas of interaction. You would have to Log On. Or Jack In. Or Hook Up. Or something. But as we move forward, we see this distinction less and less.

As I use computers more and more, there is less online/offline distinction. It used to be that you had to do something to get online. You had to dial in, or at least open a browser. In a lot of places, all you have to do now is turn on your computer. Soon you may not even have to do that. The internet is becoming persistent and pervasive.

Cyberspace doesn't apply anymore not because it is romantic and outdated but because it is less and less about a unique space created by computers. We need a term to define the internet as part of us, all the time.

I look forward to the day I can look shit up through the HUD built into my glasses or contact lens. Information instantly, in context, anywhere. Online, all the time.

Comment from: Scarybug posted at February 7, 2006 11:34 AM

Hence the Wireless Augmented Reality and Personal Area Networks in Shadowrun 4th ed. Or GURPS Transhuman Space, where you don't use the term "Online" so much because that's the normal state of being. It's "Going Dead" that's the jarring experience.

Comment from: Valis posted at February 7, 2006 12:46 PM

As for "You win the Internet," my social circle has taken it one step further. We found ourselves saying it 'offline' so much, we began just saying "That's it! You win Life!"

Incidentally, I've been saying that for a while too, though it's "You win AT Life." or "You fail at life," or a specific task.

Comment from: Bahimiron posted at February 7, 2006 1:03 PM

My fiancee has pretty much started applying it to everything. When she saw the 'bear chasing a man' Bud Light commercial during the Super Bowl, she declared, "Bud Light wins the NFL!"

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at February 7, 2006 1:03 PM

I agree with DarkStar (damn him for beating me to the punch!) the point of the article is not that the word is old and needs to be dumped, but that it no longer applies to the shifting perceptions of what the 'net means. Terms like 'cyberspace,' and even 'online,' imply a world, however abstract, that is seperate from the 'real world.' This is increasingly not the case though, as the 'net becomes less a place that is seperate from the real world, and more an extension of the real world.

The thing is that the whole idea of the 'net as a seperate place is primarily an American view. Somewhere out there is an interview with Joi Ito, where he talks about the differences between the way that Americans and Japanese approach the 'net, with Europeans being somewhat in the middle. The point he makes though is that the Japanese, because mobile devices are the most common interface, do not view the 'net as a seperate place, but an extension of the world around them.

Oh, and I still think the whole idea of coming up with a new name is stupid, but then again, its Wired, so what do you want?

Comment from: Nate posted at February 7, 2006 2:09 PM

I would just like to chime in as one of the many who uses words like newbie, noob, teh, "You win at ," and other Internetisms in real life.

Also, the first time I saw one of those little oval place stickers for Ireland I laughed since it reads "IRL". I actually wouldn't mind one without nthe flag in the background for my car, to stand for IRL, rather than Ireland. Would that make me a pretentious jerk?

And I'd also like to chime in with the people who would really like the Internet to stop being confined to my desk.

Comment from: Tyck posted at February 7, 2006 3:14 PM

I'd like to pipe up in defense of 2/4chan, because Valis made it sound like it's nothing but a vile hive of perversion; there are non-hentai sections in it. There may even be parts where people have discussions beyond the merits of the latest set of tits. It isn't just a festering pit of perversion (not that said scummy hive pit isn't a large part of it.)

I use win/fail as adjectives, too. They succintly express quite a lot that I would otherwise need many sentences to state.

Comment from: Valis posted at February 7, 2006 3:15 PM

Yeah, they do. It's called /g/.

I go there, too.

Comment from: Violet posted at February 7, 2006 4:42 PM

I'm still faintly amused that the person who refers to his own weblog posts (note pre-existing nomenclature!) as "snarks" is frustrated with the renaming of "cyberspace" on the grounds of, er, pre-existing popular nomenclature. <g>

Then again, "chattergoods" must have been suggested ironically. The essence of ridiculous cyberpunk was self-satire, after all, yes?


Turn down those blasted crickets!

Comment from: Ununnilium posted at February 7, 2006 5:56 PM

In my circle, we often say "You win seven internets!" as honest, if snarky, praise.

As well, "cyberspace" was never really used by the people who told the Internet what to be, and as those tech-jargon terms became more mainstream, it displaced the gosh-wow slang.

Comment from: Pyrthas posted at February 7, 2006 6:52 PM

I took "you win the Internet" to have developed out of phrases such as "you win at life," with the "at" dropped, but that was pure speculation. I suppose that it is perfectly good English if the Internet is the thing which you are receiving as a prize, but I've never taken it that way.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at February 7, 2006 7:56 PM

There was that one video on the extras for BNL's Rock Spectacle. "Letters to Ed."

The information superhighway -- the "information superhighway." We all know it's a crockpot.

When your wife "surfs the net," she's really slow-cooking ribs and hiding them in the closet.

(We appreciate your comments. Write to:

c/o Letters to Ed
c/ The Letters to Ed Show
c/o Ed )

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at February 7, 2006 8:22 PM

Okay, Weds, that's crazy talk.

You use a crockpot to cook rump roast, not ribs.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at February 7, 2006 10:41 PM

Beef short ribs work quite well in a crockpot. I've tried.

Comment from: gwalla posted at February 9, 2006 2:30 AM


I'm quite positive that "You win the Internet", like "you win at life", was originally comparing the Internet to a video game a la "I beat the Internet. The last guy is HARD." "You win an Internet" is a later innovation deriving from the other way of interpreting the role of "the Internet" in that sentence.

My favorite variant of "newbie" is the diminuitive form of "nub", "nubbins". It's got kind of a Dame Edna feel to it.

Jocular formations and nonce forms are one of my favorite things about the Intarwebs. Such as "nast", a backformation from the adjective "nasty", as in "black licorice is made of nast".

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