Why You Sound Dumb When You Use The Word 'Cyber'

Now that the internet is something that everyone uses, some of its more complex facets have to be simplified so they can be communicated effectively to ordinary people. The internet is a "series of tubes" where "spams and scams come through the portal" thanks to a veritable army of "cybercriminals" and whatnot. I'm all for simplifying the internet, but let's stop using the cyber prefix for everything. It makes you sound like the worst kind of idiot.

We see cyber everywhere these days, mostly in mainstream news headlines.

Cyber Criminals Steal Millions

Cyber Security Expert Warns Of Threat

Cyber Bully Trend Emerges

Cyber Army Mobilises Against Target

No. Stop it. I can't take it anymore. It's so derpy.

How did we get here? How did we stand by and whip ourselves into a tornado of moral panic over things that happen on the internet? Is it so complex a system that we'd rather wrap it up in one scary pseudo-word than understand what it means and its actual implication on events?

Cyber is used as an indicator these days. That means it's something you use when you want people to know that what you're talking about happened on the internet.

If someone snatches a bag on the street, he or she is a criminal. If they snatch a database full of credit card info, they're a cyber-criminal. If a guard chases the bag snatcher, he's part of security. If a smart guy chases the internet thief, he's a cyber security expert.

But here's the rub: both of the thieves are criminals, and both of the pursuers are security experts. The internet should have nothing to do with how the events are communicated: it was just a tool used in the crime.

Not only does the use of "cyber" make you sound dumb, it also makes you sound uneducated. The use of the prefix "cyber" in the context it has been commandeered for these days is actually grammatically absurd.

Cyber is derived from the word cybernetic, and was appropriated to describe just about anything to do with computers and the internet. Hence the coining of the term "cyberspace" in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The original word, cybernetic, is actually derived from the Greek word "kybernetes", which also means "steersman". In its simplest form, it more accurately describes the pilot of a plane — the interface between human and machine control systems — than someone who sits alone in a studio apartment stealing all of your Bitcoins.

It's time to stop this, and I know how.

It isn't hard to wean ourselves from our obsession with the incorrect use of "cyber": just call it the internet. At the end of the day, the internet is a tool, not a shady neighbourhood you shouldn't walk through alone when it gets dark. I myself may have been guilty more than once of using the term cyber, but now I know better, and so should you.

For others, like mainstream news broadcasts, it might be a bit harder to get yourself off this linguistic drug. If you're obsessed with the term cyber and need a sort of methadone, think of it thusly:

The only time you should use cyber is if you imagine the year is 1997 and you want text-based sex with another consenting adult inside an internet chat room.

Back when the internet first appeared in everyone's lounge room, basement and bedroom, mankind was figuring out how good a sexual aid. "Wanna cyber?" was a term used between two adults who wanted to simulate sex with each other via a text-based chatroom.

So the next time you write the word "cyber" in front of anything, that's the context you should enforce upon your sentence: 'Oh my,' you'll exclaim, 'the criminal was masturbating at the time he committed the crime, therefore making him a true cyber-criminal?'.


So don't be dumb in future: call people what they really are in 2014: criminals, bullies, security experts. They don't live on the internet, they're everywhere: they use the internet as a tool, just like you and me.

Security image: Shutterstock



    Good luck with your quest for linguistic accuracy.
    While you're at it, if you could get them to also stop misusing "literally" and "irony", that'd be great.
    Oh and can we have "big brother" back to meaning invasive government surveillance and not some stupid voice that tells a bunch of idiotic extroverts that he's going to shut the water off.

      I literally just lost my shit when I read your comment, how ironic.

    My pet peeve is people using the word 'virtually' instead of 'almost'. e.g. "I've virtually finished the monthly report." - do you mean you finished it using a computer? or is it almost finished?

      I've metaphorically finished all my work today so I'm going home.

      "Virtually" does mean "almost" though. "As good as": That is literally what it means. :)

      You literally made a mistake there that was virtually the same as the author's point.

    My school is currently taking severe measures to stop cyberbullying. The problem is that there really isn't any, but they all think it's an "epidemic".

    I find the use of the term "cyber bully" absurd and even offensive. A bully is a bully, that's it. Why the hell is someone that uses a computer to be an asshat any different to a "normal" asshat? The short answer, they aren't.

    Infact I'd so far as to say that by using the word "cyber" before hand they are stating that this form of bullying is not bullying, it's "special bullying" which is just absurd.

    Rant aside, I do hope the world will move beyond using the word cyber in the same way we've stopped using motorcar to describe cars.

      Cyber bullying or technological bullying is used to refer to the circumstances where the bulling extends away from school and even at home usually through social media. It is coined to help the demographic (parents) who grew up without mobiles phones and computers in school understand that it is different to normal bullying.

    The word is mainly used by so called "Experts" and "Government Officials" to try and coin a term that relates to internet specific things. Most people would know that bullying is bullying, stealing is stealing, but to try and accredit a professional title to themselves in an attempt to prevent/control it, they cant say they are police. They cant say they are counsellors. So they become "Cyber Police", or whatever they call themselves. Its a high hope Luke, but i'll get on board behind you!

    Anytime someone uses that word seriously I think they're stuck in the 90s lol

    What I like most here is that you explained the origin of the word! :)
    I did not know it came from Greek!

    I recall a similar article getting posted on Wired.com about 1.5 years ago. The use of "cyber" has not diminished, and probably will not unless you come up with something more ominous sounding.

    nothing wrong with using the term cyber other than it is overused. much like the word 'internet'. you should read up on that term. it makes you sound dumb when you refer to everything as 'the internet'.

    Cyber? You mean that thing teenagers do when they can't get any closer than telling each other what they would do if there wasn't an internet in the way? I guess those were the dial-up days... back before porn was streamable... I miss those days... those were good days... good days...

    I’m all for simplifying the internet

    Sorry Luke but that sounded derpy itself.

    so my Master's degree in Cyber Security is "dumb and uneducated"? ok good to know. And kybernetes (which is actually spelled kubernetes) definitely means "pilot of a plane", because you know, there were a lot of pilots and planes in Ancient Greece :)

    Gee, someone should maybe tell "The Donald" that. Cuz he does like to talk about "The Cybers" a lot.

    That should have been most peoples clue, (who are under 40 and have half a brain) that this guy was totally clueless.

    BTW, I'm 53 and have forgotten more about computers & security that most people will ever know about.

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