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I heard a TV news report refer to something or other "going viral".

This was completely new to me, but apparently it's a quite common phrase. There are 116,000 ghits for "go viral" (plus another 100,000 or so for "going", "gone" and "went").

What the heck does it mean?
 
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A viral video is a video that becomes very popular on the internet, particularly YouTube. It describes a video which rapidly goes from being posted to being an internet meme. I suppose you could have other viral things, but it is mostly videos.

The different verbs you saw were just different ways to describe a video becoming viral.
 
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I'd never heard it before. Here 's what netlingo says:
quote:
viral

Originally coined as part of the phrase viral marketing the term "viral" has expanded to mean any form of reoccurring practice that moves a product around from person to person. Because it is easy to copy and forward information on the net, anything that piques netizens' interests may get passed around very quickly. For example, if someone on MySpace.com posts a funny video, and the next thing you know you're viewing it with a group of people at work, that's known as a viral video.

see also: word-of-mouse

Tinman
 
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Since a computer virus is something quite negative, "going viral" could create some confusion, I suppose.
 
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"Viral marketing" is now a common concept. The idea is simple enough: you post something that people find interesting and ask them to forward it to others. Within a few days, if the item really catches people's imagination, it becomes known by huge numbers. It spreads like a highly infectious virus, in other words.


Richard English
 
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Mark Liberman, chez Language Log, opines about the positive and negative connotations of viral. I think its use in viral marketing is slightly pejorative, or maybe it's just its proximity to marketing.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Interesting discussion, z...as is usual for Language Log.

I imagine I am particularly sensitive to words like infectious and viral and suppurating (from the recent word a day) because of being in the medical field. Those types of words mostly likely have a completely different connotation for me than for non-medical people.

I've never minded using the word virus for being a cause of computer problems because human viruses cause health problems. But to think of using a virus positively is a stretch. Yet, some vaccines are made from attenuated viruses, so I suppose I could think of it that way.
 
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I read a science-fiction story once that suggested that the cold virus was the reason for the development of man's intelligence.

The hypothesis was that the common cold was chronic in humankind and its prevalence led to a significant diminution in humans' sense of smell. The reduction in sensory input thus derived meant that humankind's other abilities, most importantly intellect, developed so as to eventually surpass that of other primates.

In the story a vaccine had been developed to eliminate the common cold and it was so effective that humans regained the sense of smell that primitive man and his apelike ancestors had. So disruptive was this vastly enhanced olfactory ability, that the scientists had to develop an enhanced strain of the cold virus so that humans could once again have the chronic cold infection and revert to having their poor sense of smell.

An example of a "good" virus, I suppose.


Richard English
 
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