A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, February 7, 2010

High Tech, Low Tech, and Dead Tech

Geoffrey K. Pullum finds an anachronism: 
Sticking a label on a manila file of household papers this morning I noticed that the instructions on the sheet of labels said "Insert opposite end into typewriter." It wasn't so much the ridiculous controllingness that made me smile (the labels had no header strip, so they were symmetrical, and it would make absolutely no difference if you used the sheet one way up rather than the other); it was the quaint old lexical item typewriter. I wonder what young people would think of that advice, if they ever read the instructions on anything (they don't, of course; they learn the operating systems of their new cellphones by intuition). A typewriter? When did I last even see one? It was like coming upon a word like "spats" or "snuffbox" or "inkwell" in a modern business context. I wonder if the wording will survive unnoticed on every sheet of labels manufactured by that company until the phrase has become a sort of dead metaphor or incomprehensible incantation.
The comments on this Language Log item are kind of fun, too.  

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