I was going to title today’s posting “Internaut—not,” because I mistakenly thought that there is no English internaut to match Spanish internauta ‘a person who uses the internet.’ My spelling checker even agrees with my former self, underlining the word internaut in red when I type it. But, like Molière’s bourgeois gentleman who was amazed to learn that he’d been speaking prose all his life, I found that I’d been an internaut without knowing it when I did an internet search for internaut and turned up plenty of hits. One of the first was by a certain “WiseGeek,” who explains that “An internaut is cyber slang for an online veteran who is ultra-familiar with the Internet as an entity, and with cyberspace in general.”

English internaut, like the more common Spanish and Portuguese and Italian internauta, and French internaute, is a blending of the first part of internet with the Greek naut- that originally meant ‘sailor.’ Probably the first well-known compound with that suffix was the Argonauta/Argonaut of ancient Greek mythology. The Argonautas/Argonauts were the people who sailed with Jason on the ship named the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.

More than two millennia later, in the 1950s and 60s, in another great quest that came to be known as the Space Race or the Race for Space, the cosmonautas/cosmonauts of the Soviet Union competed against the astronautas/astronauts of the United States.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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