30-Second Word Whoop: “Hack”

hacking in a suite at clarion

Could be the workspace of a hacker ... or a hack like me.

As a headline writer, I celebrate versatile words with multiple meanings. “Hack” can refer to writers, cabdrivers, geeks or politicians. It describes being industrious enough to chop wood, idle enough to waste time (yours or someone else’s) and durable enough to “hack it.” Hackers inspire fear and awe; hacks, derision. A “hacktivist” is a hacker with principles, good or bad.

If you’re a hackney, you drive a cab; if hackneyed, you’re common or trite; if hacked, you may be breached or mangled.

You could have a hacking cough, but better a hacking jacket, which you wouldn’t likely wear while writing code, but riding a horse.

According to Webster’s, “hack” comes from the Old English haccian or German hacken — which may have translated as “hook” or “hatchet.”

A hackamore is a type of rope; to “get someone’s hackles up,” like a dog’s, means to make them bristle, with anger or tension — unraveled, unhinged.

In basketball or rugby, hackers foul. But if you simply annoy someone, they’re hacked off.

Hackberries and hackmatacks are types of trees. A hacksaw could easily cut them down.


About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

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