I'm talking to you, hacker. Did you know that that moniker you wear with pride comes from a legacy owed to many a tired prostitute? Or, that they took it over from excessively used nags that should have long been put out to pasture? This is a quick little story about the adventures of a word. Try to hold off any knee-jerk reactions until the end.
Hackney was once a quaint village with plenty of pastoral land northeast of London. Before it was just another part of the English capital, Hackney was known for its riding horsesa (circa 1300), so much so that hackney became a term to refer to the horses themselves. The people of Hackney were no village idiots, and decided to make some money by renting these choice horses out to any rider looking for a joyride. Soon hackney didn't refer to a fine riding horse, but instead a horse that you could "rent." But forget the horses. Words need not kowtow to their origins. Hackney ditched the association with horses during the age of the automobile and lent its descriptive might to the hired vehicle, specifically the hackney coach or carriage. Today, even London's black taxis are referred to this way.
That's all well and good, you say, but what about the aforementioned prostitutes? Hold your horses and keep reading.
While Hackney first enjoyed the association of being a village with fine horses, it fell prey to overuse. More specifically, its horses got worn the hell out by all their temporary owners. Just think of a rental car, or to bring the comparison closer to home, think about the last time you drove a rental car. You didn't necessarily treat it the same as your baby, now did you? Applying the same thinking to a working girl (or boy) doesn't paint a pretty picture, but it does tie-up the whole prostitute thing as promised. By the start of the 18th century hackney was abbreviated to hack and referred to any stale piece of work, with special attention given to the literary world. This is where we get the term, hack writer. Please feel free to fling it about the world of journalism with great abandon.
Now, I told you that little story just to share this definition, reputedly from MIT, 1976b:
One who works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software, one who enjoys computer programming for its own sake.
Hacker is h4x0r3d.
a So great was the reputation of Hackney that the French borrowed the word to refer to an 'ambling horse': haquenée
b I was able to find many online sources for this definition, as well as good old book sources. That being said, as with most things, you may want to take it with a grain of salt.