Slang City Mail

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August 22, 2007

Slang of the Week: pwn (verb)
to totally dominate someone in a video game

Jason could have beaten the Argonauts in a sword fight, but they really pwned him in Super Mario Brothers.

Celebrity quote:
“The ability to review your team's gameplay and strategies should make this a great tool for clan practice, but even more appealing are the opportunities it creates for the celebration of the awesome and the humiliation of the pwned.”
- Susan Arendt in a WIRED Magazine preview of the video game Halo 3

The appeal of video games is lost on me, but sometimes, the words from them creep out into real life, as this one has. Though pwned is still used principally in the online gaming world, it has been appropriated for a wide variety of uses well outside of games like Halo 3 and the World of Warcraft.

For example, in AOL Sports, a picture of a football player getting knocked down includes the description, “Yes, Staley already looks like the better player (though he appears to be getting pwned in that picture).” A blog called the Jawa Report claims, “Laura Mansfield, who was first to obtain the video, has once again pwned al-qaeda [sic]”; Mansfield recognized that an Osama bin Laden message released by Al-Qaeda was old and therefore less threatening material.

Brian Dipert of EDN claims he has “pwn[ed] the iPhone” by adding a ringtone to the new gadget despite the immense technical difficulty in doing so. In a double use of gaming slang, Youtube features a strange video of a boy jumping on a trampoline while his older brother shoots him with a paintball gun. The clip is titled “N00b Pwned by Paintball Gun.” N00b is another crossover word here; it usually describes an inexperienced player in an online video game.

The obvious question is, “How do you pronounce a word that has no vowels?” Most people believe that the word came about from a misspelling of “owned” (e.g., “I own you, loser!”) Since the p and o keys are next to one another on the QWERTY (standard) keyboard, it would be easy to make that mistake if typing quickly. The typical pronunciation of pwn, therefore, sounds like“pone,” though some people just ignore the p and pronounce it “own.

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined. From the website where teenagers define slang, this contains some recent, some useful and some entertaining, imaginary terms that they have invented for their own amusement.