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10 Historical Words That Don't Mean What You Think


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Luddite
Ned Lud was a possibly mythical early weaver who railed against industrialization and was the inspiration for the Luddites of a few decades later. Stock Montage/Getty Image
Ned Lud was a possibly mythical early weaver who railed against industrialization and was the inspiration for the Luddites of a few decades later. Stock Montage/Getty Image

Britain's Prince Charles was called a "Luddite" for speaking out against genetically modified crops. So was novelist Jonathan Franzen, after he panned e-books and Twitter. Long-used to describe someone who scorns today's technological advances for those of the past, especially when it comes to the workplace, the description is totally inaccurate. The Luddites were a group of experienced weavers from Nottinghamshire, England who got a bit hot under the collar when companies began replacing them with automated looms in the early 19th century, during Britain's Industrial Revolution. Gathering together, the weavers dubbed themselves Luddites after General Ludd or King Ludd, a fabled figure from Sherwood Forest supposedly named after Ned Lud, a weaver said to have wrecked two stocking frames a few decades earlier [source: de Castella].

With trade unions banned, the Luddites fought back against the corporations the only way they could — by rioting. The workers attacked the looms, burned the mills and even skirmished with the British army. A total of 25 Luddites were hanged and another 63 were shipped to Australia. The Luddites weren't anti-technology, they were pro-protecting-their-jobs-and-wages. It wasn't until the 1970s that the term was used to refer to technophobes; now, this new definition appears here to stay [source: de Castella].


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