Over at GeekWire, I take to task some common terminology by examining its linguistic and technological origins. And, of course, I offer helpful alternatives for “cc:,” “dial a number,” “next slide” and two other terms.
However, there was a sixth “outdated” term that I had to dump before the column was submitted, because when I did further research, I discovered I (and others who had suggested it) were, well, wrong.
The original unedited text?
Because Dittos were a 20th century technology for making – again, pre- cheap photocopy or computer – copies. They required typing or writing on a special Ditto master, with a dense waxy layer, often purple, on its reverse side. When the protective sheet was removed from the back of the master and the master was attached to a rotating drum, remarkably clear spirit fluid transferred whatever what was imprinted on the master to multiple sheets of paper, until the waxy substance was depleted and you only got faded duplicates.
I only say the spirit fluid was remarkable because it had certain properties I suspected that, if inhaled, would explain the behavior of those teachers I recall who hung around the machine much of the school day. And it was legal.
The only problem with this entire section? “Ditto” and the typographical mark which sports the same name date back to 1625 in English usage. It was not a term based on 20th century technology, but on centuries-older language and typography.
Of course, I only discovered this pesky reality after I’d drafted the column and was doing a final fact-check.
Facts: those double-edged swords that either provide the foundation, or the undoing, of a columnist’s work. Despite their annoying nature in this case, I still prefer relying on them.
Read, “I see dead words: Terminology that technology has left behind” over at GeekWire.