Thinking about my anachronistic job title in my last blog naturally led me off on a tangent. What other archaic words do we casually use every day? I could have gone out and researched all sorts of exciting engineering, medical, and manufacturing jobs and looked at their terminology. But of course I didn’t. I stared at my desk until inspiration hit.

“I’ve cced/CCed/cc’d you in.”

We all know what that means (you’re not as important or influential as the name in the top line, basically), but where does the “cc” bit come from? “Carbon copy” comes from carbon paper, an inky mess of a page that is inserted in between two leaves of paper to create an impression of the top sheet on the bottom one. I am saying this in case my blog is read by anyone under forty who doesn’t frequent antiquarian bookshops or market stalls that use manual receipt books, so will never have encountered this. Many say it’s “courtesy copy”, but that’s a backronym (love that word). So, as we type the “you-need-to-know-this-but-don’t-need-to-do-anything” recipient’s name into the cc box, we’re referencing that messy old method of duplicating documents.

Interestingly, that essential of office politics, the bcc function, could also be carried out on a typewriter. You could set the ribbon not to strike the paper, which leaves names off the top copy but leaves an impression… I like to imagine the original Miss Moneypenny doing this.

“I think I dialled the right number…”

No you didn’t. You technically pressed the right number. But we persist with this one, and even grow it as technology advances: speed-dial, direct-dial, er, dial-a-pizza.


To illustrate how old this makes me feel, here is a picture of my four-year-old learning how to dial a phone, properly, using an actual dial. In a museum. Gah. (Thanks to Porthcurno Telegraph Museum for this excellent display, btw. Brilliant museum.)

140-character limit

I am too verbose for Twitter, even when I take out on the ellipses and desperate hashtags. 140 characters often seems a bit ungenerous. Back in the day, Twitter was an SMS-based system, and those clunky early mobiles couldn’t deal with more than 160 characters. They’d do that annoying splitting up the text thing. On the whole, I quite like the fact that tweets are limited (see most Facebook posts).

Nobody wants a stylus

Of course, being terribly topical, I should add stylus. Used by the ancient Minoans and Egyptians and reviled by Steve Jobs, these “poking sticks” as they’re called in our house, hit the news last night when Apple announced that its new iPad Pro would come with a stylus.

That’s definitely a very old word for a very new thing.



For more info about carbon copies, there’s a nice clear explanation at