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A Brief History Of America’s Most Controversial Prefix

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Dennis Colella
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What was once a prefix used to classify subgenres has become one of the more controversial modifiers of our day.

White supremacists have co-opted a combining form traditionally used for musical and literary genres, Merriam-Webster wrote last week of alt-right.

Short, of course, for alternative an adjective meaning different from the usual or conventional , the prefix alt denotes something that rebels against tradition while belonging to it.

Alt was the preferred prefix for a classification of Usenet newsgroups that were created as an alternative forum to preexisting mainstream newsgroups, Merriam-Webster recounts on its blog.

Popular in the 1980s and 90s, newsgroups were akin to online discussion groups and Usenet like a bulletin board system BBS that functioned as the precursor to internet forums.

There was a significant number of people who felt that there should be a provision for a place where people could create groups without having to go through any discussion or votes.

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Dennis Colella
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