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Online Offline Homonym

You’re quite probably already familiar with homonyms – that is words that have different meanings in different contexts. A simple example is the word “bow” which depending on pronunciation can mean…

  • bending forward at the waist  or the front of a ship
  • a weapon to shoot arrows or a tied ribbon

There are other examples but what distinguishes each interpretation is the context.

Is Social Media a new Context

As part of the discussion with @MervynDinnen leading to yesterdays blog “Time to move on from lurking“, Mervyn raised the intriguing possibility that online & offline could be different contexts. Most importantly that  words could have different meanings in these different contexts, as with homonyms. The case in point was the word “lurker” and how perhaps it could have a negative connotation in the offline world and a positive/neutral connotation in the online world.

My gut instinct is that Social Media and the online world is a reflection of the real, offline world and so isn’t a different context. I also can’t think of any homonyms which demonstrate online/offline as different contexts…

So I want to put it out there for some feedback.  I’d appreciate your views, specifically in response to these two questions:-

Is the online world a reflection of the offline world or are they different contexts?

Can you think of any words (homonyms) that have different meanings when used online than when used offline? 


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