Unusual Pirated Products – WIF Consumer Corner

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5 Unusual

Pirated Products

As a wise man once said, piracy is often a pricing issue, not a servicing issue. In short, people pirate things not because they don’t want to pay for them, but because the legal avenue to obtain them is unnecessarily obtuse or customer unfriendly. With that in mind, here are five amusing stories about lesser known, but oddly popular items that have found themselves being pirated over the last few years.

 5. The Green Lantern movie was searched for more in 2011 than “porn”

If there’s one thing it’s not hard to find on the internet, it’s images and video of people doing the horizontal hug. Pornography is ubiquitous online and remains one of the internet’s most traded and oft-pirated forms of media… except for in 2011, when more people wanted to watch that terrible live-action Green Lantern movie.

To explain, according to collated list of the 100 most searched for terms on a popular torrent site throughout all of 2011, more users searched the words “green lantern” that year than they did the word “porn”. Along with apparently being more popular than the most generic search term to find pictures of boobs online we can think of, “green lantern” was sought out by pirates more often than even objectively better content that came out that same year, like Captain America: The First Avenger or Breaking Bad. Then again, maybe the reason pirates torrented the Green Lantern movies so much is because they didn’t feel it was worth paying for it. Hell, we wouldn’t blame them, we paid to see that movie and wish we could have that money back every time we don’t have enough change to buy a soda.

4. The most commonly pirated eBooks are about being better at sex, Photoshop, and math

Thanks to the rise of electronic reading devices like the Kindle, it’s possible to download and, perhaps more pertinently to this article, pirate your favorite books. Meaning that yes, we live in an age where it’s possible to illegally download 18,000 copies of the Bible if you really felt like it.

Like most things online, sites on which it’s possible to illegally download eBooks meticulously track what users are doing and the results are actually kind of fascinating. For example, in 2011 it was found that the 10 most torrented ebooks by users of the PirateBay included two books about using Photoshop, and three books detailing how to be better at sex, neither of which seems all that surprising at first. However, inexplicably sandwiched between both these things on the list is a book titled 101 Short Cuts in Maths Anyone Can Do. A book that, as far as we can tell, detailed neither how to blow a woman’s mind in bed or better use radial gradients. Meaning maybe, just maybe, it was torrented purely for the benefit of learning something interesting, but ultimately useless in real life. Speaking of which…

3. People love pirating college textbooks

There are hundreds of horror stories about the ever rising cost of college textbooks floating around the internet, from students having to pay hundreds of dollars to buy a book their professor wrote, to textbooks being reprinted every year just to force students to buy them again. Most sources are in agreement that college textbooks simply cost too much, but few offer a solution to the problem. Or, should we say, few offer a legal solution to the problem… because many students have found that pirating a textbook they’re going to use for one class is a preferable alternative to eating nothing but ramen for a semester.

Along with uploading PDFs of popular course books, more enterprising students have skirted around the soaring price of college reading material by doing things like pooling their cash buy a single copy and photocopying every page. To make this fact even more hilarious, the Washington Post has found that some students have even been found pirating textbooks for ethics classes. Meaning there’s a student out there somewhere writing an essay about the ethics of digital piracy, while referencing a pirated copy of their course textbook. The only way to make submitting that essay a bigger slap in the face for the professor would be to position the printer over their sleeping face, and replace the paper in it with slices of wet ham.

2. Pirated cable boxes offer better service than actual cable companies

Online streaming services have been collectively kicking the cable industry in its aging, greying sack for a while now, and for the most part cable companies have done nothing to try and compete with the superior service they provide. For example, a common complaint about cable companies is that they refuse to offer a la carte programming (basically the option to pick and pay for only one or two channels), and have repeatedly insisted that this isn’t possible. Which is weird, because the people pirating their service can do exactly that.

Yes, there are unscrupulous folks out there who will sell you a pirated cable box or Android device with any channel you want unlocked. The difference being that, unlike cable companies (who will slap on a bunch of stuff you don’t want and charge you $80 dollars every month for the privilege), the people those same cable companies call thieves, will charge you once and only give you exactly what you feel is worth paying for, with regard to channels. For example, in Canada some people were caught buying a one for a one off fee of about $100, purely so that they could watch Game of Thrones on HBO, a move that saw HBO send pissy letters to customers reminding them that “it’s never been easier to legally watch HBO shows in Canada.” A sentence that’s technically correct, if you’re willing to pay about $100 per month for a top tier cable package. In other words, the pirates are offering customers a better deal than cable companies, and the reaction from those companies is to do absolutely nothing to make their service better.

1. Keurig has spent years having an amazing pissing match about their coffee maker

Keurig is a company best known for making single cup coffee machines that use those weird little pods. They’re also known for being huge, whiney babies about people who don’t specifically use their coffee pods. The company maintains that only official Keurig brand coffee pods should be used with their machines, despite most generic coffee pods working just fine.

Keurig, rather than trying to compete with these rival companies by offering a better selection of products, lowering their prices, or producing higher quality coffee, have opted to instead design ever more sophisticated machines that refuse to accept anything but official Keurig pods. Keurig is so gung-ho about this that they released a new machine that didn’t even work with old Keurig podsleading to a massive public outcry when customers who bought one realized they had to buy the newer, more expensive pods compatible with the machine. An endeavor that proved to be ultimately fruitless, because every time Keurig does this, generic brand coffee pod makers always find a way to circumvent it either by pirating the technology in the pods or figuring out how to mimic it. Still, it’s kind of nice to know that right now, there’s a company getting rich selling pirated pods of coffee. If only because that sentence sounds hilarious.

Unusual Pirated Products


WIF Consumer Corner

World Wide Words Issue 839 – WIF Style

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Issue 839: Saturday 6 July 2013





1. Feedback, Notes and Comments.

2. Nosopoetic.

3. Loophole.

4. Fornication.

5. Sic!


Duct tape Readers were quick to mention other names for the stuff, including 100-mph tape, supposedly so named in the US military because it was strong enough to hold together a jeep travelling at that speed; an older form is 90-mph tape. Jim Tang mentioned that a more recent aircraft version is 500-mph tape, though I wouldn’t care to fly in one so mended. Another term is gaffer tape, a version used by film electricians, whose boss is the gaffer. A paragraph about these was in the piece as first written but I accidentally left it out during the revision. Now included again, together with the 500-mph variant.

Jitney Lots of readers asked about jeepneys in the Philippines. It is generally agreed by the experts that they get their name from combining jeep and jitney, having been so named by US service personnel in the country after the Second World War, when many ex-army jeeps were used as informal transport.

Michael Grosvenor Myer recalled, “When I worked for a canned goods importing firm in Eastcheap in the 1950s, a jitney, sometimes shortened to jit, was the smallest size of canned fruit container. Do you know anything of this usage?” It isn’t in any dictionary I’ve consulted but there’s a reference dated May 1927 in a trade journal called The Canner: “Examination of 1926 pack statistics show rapid progress toward smaller cans that will sell at popular prices. The small 8-oz. jitney appeared for the first time.” There are other contemporary references to the name being applied to the eight-ounce can. There are examples also of its being used today for a size of sardine can. We may guess that its name derives from the small value of the jitney coin.

2. Nosopoetic/,nɒsəʊpəʊˈɛtɪk/

Despite its form, this has nothing to do with poetry (or noses). The first part is from Greek nosos, a disease, while the second is a disguised form of pointikos, creative or productive, which is the source of the English adjective poietic with the same sense. So something nosopoetic causes disease.

You might think the term would have found favour with doctors, as it would be a useful addition to their vocabulary. However, it never caught on — despite appearing in a couple of glossaries of medical terms in the early nineteenth century — and around the middle of the century was supplanted by pathogenic.

Nosopoetic was invented by the extraordinary mathematician, physician and satirist Dr John Arbuthnot, who also created the persona of John Bull who symbolises the English character and nation. He introduced nosopoetic in his work of 1733, An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies.

More than a century later, it appeared in a work I’ve had cause to quote from previously, written by a pioneering educationalist in Indiana to encourage students to learn new words by putting them in context:

The multifarious cibarious substances engorged into inane and jejune stomachs, during the nuptial festivity, were extremely nosopoetic on the guests.
Letters to Squire Pedant, by Samuel Hoshour, 1856.

Cibarious means relating to food, or edible; inane is being used here in its ancient sense of void or empty; jejune is likewise in its earliest meaning of fasting or being hungry. This periphrastic conglomeration may be reduced to “The wedding guests became ill from overeating on empty stomachs.”


3. Loophole

Q From Will Thomas: Where do we get loophole from?

A A typical medieval English castle would have had — in addition to barbicans, machicolations, crenellations, a portcullis or two and other useful features — a number of loops.

This loop isn’t a “doubling or return into itself of a portion of a string, cord, thong, or the like, so as to leave an aperture between the parts”, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains it. (Defining geometric shapes is a good test of a lexicographer’s skill. It may remind you of the trouble Dr Johnson had with network: “Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.”)

These castle-type loops were small gaps or holes in the fortified walls for keeping watch, for archers to shoot through, or to let light into a chamber. Later, the word was applied to arrow-slits to the exclusion of the other senses.

There’s no connection between the two meanings of loop, though one nineteenth-century scholar did attempt to square the semantic circle by suggesting that the apertures were in the shape of loops. It’s likely, the experts suggest, that it comes from the old Dutch verb lûpen, to watch or peer, or glupen, to spy or lurk, to watch with narrowed eyes, whose source is a word for a crack or slit.

In the sixteenth century, loop began to be expanded to loophole. It seems that Englishmen were as puzzled and confused then by the two senses of loop as we might be today and added the second part to make it clear they were talking about openings in walls and not doubled-over bits of string.

Around the middle of the following century loophole began to be used figuratively for a means of escape and by 1700 could have our modern sense of an ambiguity or inadequacy in rules or laws that allows somebody to evade their provisions.

4. Fornication

Q From B J Wise: I’ve just read a suspicious description of the origin of the word fornication. Supposedly, it comes from fornacis, the Latin for furnace, which has to do with prostitutes operating out of bakeries and advertising with bread baked in the shape of penises. They would wait for the oven to cool, and crawl inside to “heat the ovens back up again”. Is there any merit to this?

A That’s an utterly unfounded but delightful story. The writer has vaguely recalled the real origin and has built a shaky tower of invention on no foundation whatsoever except a misunderstanding of Latin vocabulary.

For the Romans a furnace was a fornax (fornacis is actually the adjective, “relating to a furnace”, best known in the formal names of several stars in the constellation Fornax). The word the teller of your tale was searching for is fornix, an arch or vaulted chamber. It’s true that furnaces and bread ovens were often built in an arched shape, and some writers have consequently sought to derive fornix from fornax, but the two words had distinct senses in classical Latin.

A fornix might be a triumphal arch marking a successful battle or a mundane one supporting the upper floor of a Roman building. Arched passages in public buildings such as the Stadium and Colosseum in Rome were popular with prostitutes seeking trade. Brothels of the poorer sort were often established in vaulted cellars. So fornix became a slang term for a house of ill repute.

The late Latin verb fornicari and the noun fornicationem came from fornix. English took over the noun from French around 1300 but the verb only appeared 250 years later.

It’s curious that the noun was recorded a century ago in the English Dialect Dictionary as in use in several English dialects for telling lies. A fornicator was a liar and a fornicating person was deceitful or treacherous. We may guess this evolved because a person who was suspected of sex outside marriage was strongly tempted to tell lies about it.


5. Sic!

• Ira Rimson stumbled across this in The Innocent by David Baldacci: “An hour later a chubby man in a wrinkled suit with pasty skin walked in.”

• Alan Harrison found this sentence in the Birmingham Mail of 28 June, beginning an article on the discovery of the grave of Major Harry Gem: “Enthusiasts have rediscovered the long lost grave of the Birmingham man who invented tennis in a city cemetery.”

World Wide Words Issue 839

– WIF Style

Don’t Believe the Wrong Book

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Timothy B. Tyson

“It appeared clear to me – partly because of the lies that filled my history (science) textbooks – that the intent of formal education was to inculcate obedience to a social order that did not deserve my loyalty. Defiance seemed the only dignified response to the adult world.”

― Timothy B. TysonBlood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

“That is my point about the whole carbon dating thing and my notion that we have been taught a bunch of nonsense. I believe in six days and a rest.”