So what would happen if we use another word to describe ourselves? The same thing would eventually happen all over again.
This is absolutely right. For a similar example, take a look at the following series of terms: Negro/colored/black/African-American. In each case, the existing term became laden with negative connotations, due to prejudice and ignorance. But unlike the "hacker" community, the affected group had enough clout to change the term used, which superficially eliminated the negative connotations. But the real, underlying problems weren't fixed, so the new term eventually succumbed just like the old one. (I hope that American society has improved to the point where this won't need to happen again...)
The real obstacle for us is that the media will (given some time) call "electronic intruders" whatever they call themselves. Script kiddies don't call themselves "script kiddies", and crackers don't call themselves "crackers". Justified or not, they take the more respectable term "hacker" for themselves, so that's what the media calls them. If we somehow transferred our meaning of hacker to some other word ("sourceror" was tossed about), then crackers and script kiddies will start using it, to claim legitimacy for themselves and their actions. And we'll be right back where we started, minus the term "hacker". Repeat ad infinitum.
<RANT>And a few choice words for those who quote dictionaries and the Jargon File: those things mean precisely nothing. When I use the word "hacker", its real meaning lies in how I intended it to be used, and how those who listen to me think I used it. There exists a chance of miscommunication, given that we all have slightly different internal definitions. The natural process of language acquisition takes care of most of these problems, but for those occasions when it's not good enough, we developed dictionaries as a tool. They describe the current mainstream/prestige usages, not dialects, jargon, or non-prestigious usages. So although they help mainstream communication, they also reinforce the mistaken notion that non-mainstream usages are wrong, ignorant etc. Which is absolutely not the case.
People's usage of a term reflects how they learned to use it, nothing more. If it's different than yours, that just means they learned to use it somewhere different than where you learned to use it. And so attacking a person's use of language is IMPLICITLY an attack on their entire culture, because their culture determines how they use words. If that's what you mean to do, go right ahead (although I'd prefer direct attacks), but otherwise, saying that someone is "wrong" is an unproductive thing to do. Because unless someone's consciously trying to learn a particular dialect (like that of hackers), it's probably going to be taken badly.</RANT>
Sorry if that went overboard, but sociolinguistics facinates me, partially because it encompasses almost all human interactions, and yet most people have no clue about it...
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