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Spoilers are plot points in a popular entertainment the advance knowledge of which will diminish or “spoil” a first viewing. In the 1950s, movies such as Diabolique sometimes included a screen after the closing credits asking the audience not to reveal the ending to others. There was no word for it at that time, it was merely a dash of Hollywood style, making the audience co-conspirators and adding a patina of secret knowledge to having seen the movie first.

With the advent of the Internet, ordinary people were suddenly conversing not just with friends but in a very public forum; spoilers became a more serious concern and the word was coined. It is now considered grossly impolite to discuss any plot point of a recently released book, game, or movie in an online forum, blog, article or review without a warning such as “Spoiler Alert.”

Some forums even have special tags that hide a passage of text, requiring the reader to mouse over the words in order to read it. News and pictures of movies filming publicly in cities often reveal “spoilers,” even if they are things many consider trivial like details of a character’s costume.

Relevant blogs:

“Sorry to spoil things, boys” Did the LA TImes overstep on Anne Hathaway Interview?

Cat ears, Cat-Tales, and Catwoman’s costume on and off

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