Quite when we specifically began to think of a spoiler as a piece of information which gives away an important plot point in a TV programme or movie, as opposed to something you might find on the wing of a plane or the rear end of a car, is open to debate.
But as with many of modern life's irritants you can probably pin it on the rise of the internet, which is a veritable paradise for the kind of friendless, attention-seeking dweeb who gets his -- for it is usually a he -- pathetic jollies from ruining other people's enjoyment.
The equivalent in the pre-computer age was the gobshite in the pub who thought prematurely jumping in with the punchline of a joke someone else was telling was the funniest thing since sliced white Bernard Manning.
I still haven't forgotten the fool who revealed the big twist in The Crying Game -- on the very evening I'd arranged to go see it with my wife.
That said, avoiding movie spoilers is comparatively easy as long as you choose your friends with care and steer clear of reading internet film "reviews" by amateur critics (not difficult, to be honest, since the majority of them are unreadable, semi-literate drivel anyway).
It's an entirely different matter, however, when television stations start spoiling the fun. Take RTE's trailer for last night's final episode of the gripping Homeland -- and apologies, by the way, for the gaffe on this page last week. At the time of writing it, I mistakenly thought Homeland was due to finish last Friday.
I watched Homeland from the beginning and was riveted by every ingenious twist, every surprise, every red herring strewn around like confetti from one episode to the next. If I'd wanted to find out in advance how it would end, all I had to do was look online. But where's the fun in that?
If I'd been in a hurry to actually see how it would end, I could have downloaded the entire series by nefarious means. But there's a certain old-fashioned tingle about the sense of having to wait a whole week for the next suspense-packed development.
Thanks to RTE, last night's feature-length finale was very nearly ruined by a midweek trailer which all but gave away the ending.
Sure, we'd all seen Brody (Damian Lewis) pick up an explosive vest in last week's penultimate episode, so we kind of knew what he was planning to do.
Kind of knowing and knowing are two different animals, though. The last thing I wanted to see three days before the final episode of a series I'd been glued to for nearly three months was a 15-second clip that not only showed a sweaty Brody with his thumb on the detonator, but also featured several other clips that nearly wrecked the surprise.
These mini-spoilers are becoming a real nuisance. Nearly every new drama serial comes with a "Next time... " segment at the end of each episode. Why?
I accept channels have to "sell" programmes, but if I've already invested 11 Friday nights in a series, of course I want to see how it ends. But I want to do so at the appropriate time -- the end.
>Pots and kettles In the latest hot, well, hand-warm news from the celebrity plankton wars, there's been an amusing little spat in the Z-list paddling pool featuring Big Brother contestant and all-purpose tabloid space-filler Georgia Salpa versus Tallafornia, erm, whatever Kelly Donegan.
Donegan has branded Salpa a hypocrite after she called Tallafornia "repulsive", saying of the final episode: "They were all really drunk and you could see the girls' arses."
Do you think she was wearing this (see left) when she said that? Hmm, must have chafed a bit on that high horse.
>egomania Like the rest of the watching world, I was shocked to learn a crazed female fan had managed to get into Simon Cowell's bathroom, and not just because she somehow breached the security of the karaoke king's fortified home, which he'd previously proudly described as "safer than the Bank of England".
No, the most disturbing detail of the story was what Cowell was actually doing when the break-in occurred.
He was downstairs watching television. Specifically, he was downstairs watching himself on television, where he was a guest on The Jonathan Ross Show. It's nice to know what the most narcissistic man on TV does on his nights off.
>GUILT TrIP TV critics don't have guilty pleasures. We watch too much crap to feel guilty about anything. But if I had one, it would surely be Room To Improve, currently in repeat on RTE1 on Wednesdays.
I detest home-improvement shows but I make an exception for RTI, purely for the look of crestfallen exasperation on architect Dermot Bannon's face whenever a) the clients disagree with his design, or b) something goes disastrously wrong.
I hope there's another series. RTI is too much deliciously sadistic fun to lose.