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Does the word "troll" necessarily imply negative connotations?

More specifically, can the word "troll"/"trolling" be legitimately used to describe a posting which is clearly made with intent of merely generating laughs on April 1st?

Please note that the question is specifically about connotations involving intent - e.g. the assumption is that the posting is otherwise on-topic and not disruptive (e.g. a standalone question on a Stack Exchange site, which would be classified as on-topic AND not disrupting existing questions).


More specifically:

  • Urban Dictionary defines "Troll" as:

    One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

    This seems to imply a clearly negative intent and thus inapplicable to April First jokes.

  • Online Slang Dictionary says:

    A person who posts to an internet discussion group or chat room with the sole purpose of disrupting it.

  • Wikipedia defines:

    In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

    Again, making the assumption that the posting in question is not "extraneous, or off-topic", this seems MOSTLY to imply negative intent connotations to me.

    However, recently someone made an argument that, since "aiming to get laughs from people on April 1st" can be classified as "provoking readers into an emotional response", it should fit under definition of a troll.

So, my questions are:

  • Is there a well accepted connotation that "troll" implies negative intent, as opposed to including intent to provoke harmless April 1st laughter?

  • As a side question, does the wording in Wiki article (** or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion**) also impose a negative intent on "emotional response" part via the use of "of otherwise"?

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possible duplicate of Trolling: billy goats gruff or fishing reference? –  FumbleFingers Apr 2 '12 at 10:58
1  
There was some relevant chat about the definition of trolling during March: March 20th, March 22nd –  Matt Эллен Apr 2 '12 at 11:01
    
@FumbleFingers - while it's about the same word, that question does not seem to answer my specific connotation question at all. –  DVK Apr 2 '12 at 11:11
    
There's already enough information on that link to make it clear that all "normal" connotations for the modern Internet usage are "negative". I've known people who use "cnt" as a term of endearment, and for Mellors in *Lady Chatterley's Lover it obviously had positive connotations. Which is to say any word can feasibly be used with "non-standard implications" - but not everyone will accept this, and I don't see ELU should be concerned with what's effectively "voting" on marginal usages. –  FumbleFingers Apr 2 '12 at 11:56
    
Connotations are in the eye of the beholder. –  Sam Jan 1 at 22:27

3 Answers 3

I used to tell my boyfriend all the time that his friend was nothing more than a troll — the definition of which I was made to look up after someone else overheard me saying this.

I found the definition to be that I meant short, warts, smelled bad, and lived underground; we can find such trolls on movies and television.

What I meant was he was using my boyfriend for information and was getting him in trouble, luring him away from his responsibilities, and when he was caught, telling the person who caught him that it was my boyfriend’s idea all along.

So is troll an abusive word? I’d have to say that if you are calling someone a troll, then yes it’s abusive.

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Troll is negative - unless you're fishing.

(Fishermen troll, but trolls phish).

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Sorry, I meant in the "posting" troll context. –  DVK Apr 3 '12 at 11:29

Definitely. You have all those links to prove it already.

In usage, it is always used with negative connotations. Someone who is annoying online, is usually dubbed with "trolling".

I wouldn't describe an April Fools' Post as trolling. "Humorous" perhaps.

The fine line dividing an April Fools' post from a trolling post, is as you have already stated, harm. An April Fools' post, if harmless, would not be called "trolling".

However, if this April Fools' Post causes considerable disruption and harm, then it can be rightly called a trolling post.

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I agree. While it's possible to post borderline-offensive comments for the sake of discussion, I'd much rather call that "playing the devils advocate" rather than trolling. At least until someone crosses the line (which is highly subjective). –  Joachim Sauer Apr 2 '12 at 12:02
    
I would describe any April Fools' posting as trolling, particulary on Stack Exchange, and indeed I did this year. It's intentionally subversive. –  Andrew Leach Apr 2 '12 at 14:53

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