Sunday, October 18, 2009
Phish vs. Phishing
photo by Liam Quin
I love antagonyms. It's often hilarious and fascinating when words take on multiple meanings, as in brief, tossing salad or a Bill Clinton. It's evident language speakers will continue to engage in a never ending semantic war on proper word usage. The battle is sometimes serious. More than just lame arguments about trivial meaning, the ubiquitous n-word, f-word, and p-word battles prove definitions can be about important issues of social identity, not just grammar.
The word "phish" of course, is not immune. In terms of the band, the present participle battle is clearly lost. Phishing = identity theft, or at least an attempt of an illegal ID land grab. The band's formation predates the first use of the the term "phishing", used to describe the act of electronic data fraud. An old school AOL usenet newsgroup is credited (1,2,3,4) with the first use of "Phishing" back in 1996.
grabbed from esat
On October 7, 2009 the FBI boasted of the success of operation "Phish Phry", the largest, most successful cyber-crime sting to date. Netting about 100 suspects, it was a joint effort involving US and Egyptian law enforcement. Looks like most suspects will be charged w/conspiracy to commit bank/wire fraud, thus "phishing" is not an official crime.
The recent press release represents the first time "phish" has been officially used in a title of a FBI brief (documents on the DL non-withstanding). Mark it down, phish trivia nerds. And no, conspiracy theory nerds, I do not think this is an elaborate attempt to tarnish the phish name; that happens on it's own I think.
The language war will undoubtedly continue whether people discuss the etymology of "phish" or not. I want the FBI to know that I notice their use of "phish" and this aggression will not stand. Take your ID theft crime and call it what it really is: fraud, not phish.