Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
mid-14c., from Anglo-French flaume, Old French flamme (10c.), from Latin flammula "small flame," diminutive of flamma "flame, blazing fire," from PIE *bhleg- "to shine, flash," from root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn" (see bleach (v.)).
The meaning "a sweetheart" is attested from 1640s; the figurative sense of "burning passion" was in Middle English. Flame-thrower (1917) translates German flammenwerfer (1915).
The hot, glowing mixture of burning gases and tiny particles that arises from combustion. Flames get their light either from the fluorescence of molecules or ions that have become excited, or from the incandescence of solid particles involved in the combustion process, such as the carbon particles from a candle.
To rant, to speak or write incessantly and/or rabidly on some relatively uninteresting subject or with a patently ridiculous attitude or with hostility toward a particular person or group of people. "Flame" is used as a verb ("Don't flame me for this, but..."), a flame is a single flaming message, and "flamage" /flay'm*j/ the content.
Flamage may occur in any medium (e.g. spoken, electronic mail, Usenet news, World-Wide Web). Sometimes a flame will be delimited in text by marks such as "
The term was probably independently invented at several different places.
Mark L. Levinson says, "When I joined the Harvard student radio station (WHRB) in 1966, the terms flame and flamer were already well established there to refer to impolite ranting and to those who performed it. Communication among the students who worked at the station was by means of what today you might call a paper-based Usenet group. Everyone wrote comments to one another in a large ledger. Documentary evidence for the early use of flame/flamer is probably still there for anyone fanatical enough to research it."
It is reported that "flaming" was in use to mean something like "interminably drawn-out semi-serious discussions" (late-night bull sessions) at Carleton College during 1968-1971.
Usenetter Marc Ramsey, who was at WPI from 1972 to 1976, says: "I am 99% certain that the use of "flame" originated at WPI. Those who made a nuisance of themselves insisting that they needed to use a TTY for "real work" came to be known as "flaming asshole lusers". Other particularly annoying people became "flaming asshole ravers", which shortened to "flaming ravers", and ultimately "flamers". I remember someone picking up on the Human Torch pun, but I don't think "flame on/off" was ever much used at WPI." See also asbestos.
It is possible that the hackish sense of "flame" is much older than that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in his time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced computing device of the day. In Chaucer's "Troilus and Cressida", Cressida laments her inability to grasp the proof of a particular mathematical theorem; her uncle Pandarus then observes that it's called "the fleminge of wrecches." This phrase seems to have been intended in context as "that which puts the wretches to flight" but was probably just as ambiguous in Middle English as "the flaming of wretches" would be today. One suspects that Chaucer would feel right at home on Usenet.
rapidly reacting body of gas, commonly a mixture of air and a combustible gas, that gives off heat and, usually, light and is self-propagating. Flame propagation is explained by two theories: heat conduction and diffusion. In heat conduction, heat flows from the flame front, the area in a flame in which combustion occurs, to the inner cone, the area containing the unburned mixture of fuel and air. When the unburned mixture is heated to its ignition temperature, it combusts in the flame front, and heat from that reaction again flows to the inner cone, thus creating a cycle of self-propagation. In diffusion, a similar cycle begins when reactive molecules produced in the flame front diffuse into the inner cone and ignite the mixture. A mixture can support a flame only above some minimum and below some maximum percentage of fuel gas. These percentages are called the lower and upper limits of inflammability. Mixtures of natural gas and air, for example, will not propagate flame if the proportion of gas is less than about 4 percent or more than about 15 percent.