Re: The new muLinux mailing-list / self-fulfilling prophecy

From: Alfie Costa (
Date: Sun Oct 13 2002 - 21:41:35 CEST

On 13 Oct 2002, at 17:55, Michele Andreoli <> wrote:

> We have just to wait a little, and Alfie will post here
> a lot of etimological material about "virus" etc ... :-)

I, Pedant.


        Virus Vi"rus, n. L., a slimy liquid, a poisonous liquid,
           poison, stench; akin to Gr. ? poison, Skr. visha. Cf.
           Wizen, v. i.
           1. (Med.)
              (a) Contagious or poisonous matter, as of specific ulcers,
                  the bite of snakes, etc.; -- applied to organic
              (b) The special contagion, inappreciable to the senses and
                  acting in exceedingly minute quantities, by which a
                  disease is introduced into the organism and maintained
           Note: The specific virus of diseases is now regarded as a
                 microscopic living vegetable organism which multiplies
                 within the body, and, either by its own action or by
                 the associated development of a chemical poison, causes
                 the phenomena of the special disease.
           2. Fig.: Any morbid corrupting quality in intellectual or
              moral conditions; something that poisons the mind or the
              soul; as, the virus of obscene books.

Jargon File...

        virus n. from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF A
           cracker program that searches out other programs and `infects' them by
           embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become Trojan horses.
           When these programs are executed, the embedded virus is executed too,
           thus propagating the `infection'. This normally happens invisibly to the
           user. Unlike a worm, a virus cannot infect other computers without
           assistance. It is propagated by vectors such as humans trading programs
           with their friends (see SEX). The virus may do nothing but propagate
           itself and then allow the program to run normally. Usually, however,
           after propagating silently for a while, it starts doing things like
           writing cute messages on the terminal or playing strange tricks with the
           display (some viruses include nice display hacks). Many nasty viruses,
           written by particularly perversely minded crackers, do irreversible
           damage, like nuking all the user's files.
           In the 1990s, viruses became a serious problem, especially among
           Windows users; the lack of security on these machines enables viruses to
           spread easily, even infecting the operating system (Unix machines, by
           contrast, are immune to such attacks). The production of special
           anti-virus software has become an industry, and a number of exaggerated
           media reports have caused outbreaks of near hysteria among users; many
           lusers tend to blame _everything_ that doesn't work as they had
           expected on virus attacks. Accordingly, this sense of `virus' has passed
           not only into techspeak but into also popular usage (where it is often
           incorrectly used to denote a worm or even a Trojan horse). See
           phage; compare back door; see also Unix conspiracy.

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