05 January 2009

Pens, Pencils and staplers

It's a Monday and everyone is trudging along to work. Bleary desk and bland cubicles and such.

Which makes it an ideal day to talk about stationary.

What are the origins of some of our most useful knick-knacks?

Here's what I found in the Online Etymology Dictionary:

* I'm not sure how far back paperclip goes but looks like Clipboard dates back to 1907. Clip itself seems to be derived from O.E. clyppan.

* Apparently the stapler is a 50's child. The origins of the word staple itself seems to be disputed/debated/pondered about a lot. In the 13th Century it might have referred to a "bent piece of metal with pointed ends," but how this came down from a word referring to an execution block and/or pillar is beyond me.

* Looks like pencil originally referred to an artist's paintbrush. It's meaning as "graphite writing implement" came about 300 odd years later in the 16th Century. Rather amusing to see that this word, in its early form, was derived from phallic references. Of sorts.

* On the other hand, pen dates back to the 14th Century and seems to have referred to a "quill pen, feather". The site traces the various ways it evolved from different words but this is what I found interesting. In later Fr., this word means only "long feather of a bird," while the equivalent of Eng. plume is used for "writing implement," the senses of the two words thus reversed from what they are in English. How about that!