A cyberlanche

The June 30th NewScientist has two reports on the use of attacks on computer software as weapons of war — as usual for big stories, a shorter piece at the front of the magazine and a longer one later. Both are full of cyber- words, starting with the heading on the shorter piece (p. 5):

Cybergeddon ahoy

and going on with two more on that page, and four more in the later piece (pp. 26-7). Quite a lexical haul.

Cybergeddon combines two libfixes: the first element cyber– and the second element –geddon, a shortened version of the -mageddon I’ve written about several times on this blog (a summary piece here, then additions here, here, and here). Cybermageddon would have been possible, but Cybergeddon alternates accented and unaccented syllables, so it’s phonologically a bit more satisfying. (The same thing is true of the title of this posting, where cybervalanche — see -valanche here — would have been possible, but cyberlanche is a bit better, because of the alternation of accented and unaccented syllables.)

The remaining examples:

The chaos that resulted is a taste of what could happen if expert cyberattackers targeted a country’s financial systems. (p. 5)

… says Sujeet Shenoi, a cybersecurity adviser to the US government… (p. 5)

There are worrying similarities between the cyberwarfare being used by the US and the dawning of the nuclear arms race, warns Kennette Benedit (p. 26)

Confirmation that the US was behind a 2010 cyberattack on Iran means the world has officially entered a new era of warfare… (p. 26)

In the case of cyberweapon attacks, it is also very hard to determine at this early stage how much damage could be inflicted on societies. (p. 26)

… computer scientists and engineers have also called for international cooperation to establish protocols to control cybertechnology and protocols to prevent a new kind of arms race. (p. 27)

Michael Quinion’s affixes site has an unusually long entry (of 7/2/09) for cyber-, which manages not to overlap with this list (though cyberwar vs. cyberwarfare is close):

Computer-mediated electronic communications.

[From the first element of cybernetics, the science of communications and automatic control systems, itself derived from Greek kubernētēs, steersman.]

Cyber- is one of the newest and in the 1990s also one of the most fertile combining forms in the language. The science-fiction writer William Gibson coined cyberspace in the early 1980s to describe a shared but intangible virtual reality space within computers. At about the same time cyberpunk came into being to describe the genre characterised by William Gibson’s work, set in lawless future societies dominated by computer technology.

When public interest in the Internet blossomed in the early 1990s, journalists and commentators borrowed cyber- to refer to the online world, shifting its sense so it referred to electronic communications in general. This form became fashionable in the mid-nineties, with many hundreds of coinages recorded; only a few are likely to have a lasting place in the language. Cyber, as an adjective for electronic communication, is now also a word in its own right…

Examples of words in cyber-

cyberart   art using computers or computer visualization methods

cybercash   electronic money stored in a smart card

cybercitizen   either a member of the online Internet community, or someone who uses the Net to exercise democratic rights in their community, say through electronic discussion forums or electronic voting

cybercommerce  an older term for electronic commerce (see e-1)

cybercrime  in theory any criminal activity carried out using electronic communications, but principally electronic theft of money or identity or industrial espionage

cyberdemocracy  another name for electronic democracy, exercised by a cybercitizen

cyberian  a high-tech hippy who embraces technology

cyberlawyer  either someone versed in the law applying to electronic communications, or one who studies its implications for the law

cyberpunk  a sub-genre of science fiction, relating to lawless future societies dominated by computer technology

cybershopping  buying things via the Net, electronic shopping

cyberspace  the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs (adjective cyberspatial)

cybersquatting  registering an Internet domain name with the sole purpose of selling it on at a profit

cybersurfer  someone who surfs the Internet

cyberterrorism  the use of electronic techniques to cause damage to the computer systems or communications of an opposition group

cyberwar  using electronic methods to knock out the command systems of an enemy

No doubt there are plenty of others out there: cyberconflict, cybershowdown, cyberthug, etc.

5 Responses to “A cyberlanche”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Cyber- has a longer history than this. It begins as the ancient Greek word kybernētēs, a steersman or pilot – it appears several times in the Bible, most memorably in Acts 27:11, one of St. Paul’s hairier nautical adventures.

    Norbert Wiener gave the word its modern sense in his 1948 book Cybernetics, but it really took off when “the science-fiction writer William Gibson coined cyberspace in the early 1980s.” By the late 1990s it had acquired such bizarre means as “to cyber” – to chat erotically online.

    The Greek word was loaned into Latin in ancient times as “gubernator”, whence Modern Austro-Californian “governator” (a word actually first attested in 1522).

    Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης or philosophia biou kybernētēs, “philosophy the pilot of life”. My mother, my wife, and my ex were all Phi Beta Kappa. Me, I graduated mirabile dictu.

  2. Julian C. Lander Says:

    Sometimes I find value in your asides. I’m working on some parody lyrics for a song, and the scansion is being odd. It’s because of the accented syllable issues, I see now, and that will help me understand what I can get away with (right now it’s what _sounds_ OK to me, but I’m afraid to trust that).

  3. John Lawler Says:

    “If it sounds right, it is right.”
    — Duke Ellington

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