Those words have become more and more common in recent years, as digital video recorders (DVRs) and online video make it easier to time-shift TV programming, while at the same time Facebook and Twitter make it easier to comment on programming while it's taking place.
No one wants to have a big surprise or plot twist ruined for them just because they haven't had time yet to sit down and watch the latest episode of, let's say, "Breaking Bad."
And yet, it can be a great deal of fun, when you are watching something as it's broadcast, to carry on an online conversation about it with friends and other viewers.
And the problem isn't confined to scripted dramas either.
NBC has taken criticism for years from those who want to watch Olympic events live. NBC, which spends enormous amounts of money for the rights to the games and for production costs, somewhat understandably wants to air the marquee events in prime time, when the most people will be watching. But serious sports lovers would rather see the action as it happens, and also feel that NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage is over-produced.
This year, in an attempt to blunt the criticism, NBC is offering a two-pronged approach. Yes, the pre-packaged prime time highlights are still there, but the network is also using its nbcolympics.com web site to provide live streaming coverage for those who prefer it, who have a high-speed Internet connection and who can manage to be in front of a screen at odd hours. (You do have to prove that you have a cable or satellite subscription; the online coverage is, in theory, tied to your subscription to the NBC-owned cable channels which carry Olympics coverage.)
But there's one problem, and you guessed it: spoilers. We're more connected than ever, and for those who do want to watch the primetime highlights it may be hard to avoid news reports, much less online chatter, about the games. Let's say you have a news-headlines widget on your smartphone, or tablet, or desktop. You may see a headline like "Lochte beats Phelps in IM final," and, boom, the big primetime event has been, to some degree, spoiled.
Of course, in the countries where the Olympics are all being aired live, the people watching them live are taking to Twitter and Facebook to discuss them. Sharp-eyed Internet users on Friday might found out about some of the surprises from the opening ceremonies long before they were aired by NBC.
Sometimes, NBC even spoils itself: on Monday, NBC ran a promo for the following day's "Today" show during its prime time Olympics coverage. The promo referred to a feature about swimmer Missy Franklin earning her first gold medal. The trouble is that NBC hadn't yet aired the event in which Franklin won that medal, and wasn't scheduled to do so until later in the evening.
New technology always requires new ways of doing things. The etiquette by which one person avoids spoiling a movie or TV show for others continues to evolve, and those who want to avoid seeing spoilers have to be vigilant and may have to excuse themselves from places where such information is likely to pop up.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.