Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Take It for a Spindle

Remember these?

IBM punch card
Back in the days when computer science majors (not me!) learned to program with punch cards like these, it was common to see the phrase "Do not fold, spindle or mutilate."

I understood the gist of it, but never actually figured out what spindle meant. If anything, I'd say I thought it was like that lawyerly phrase null and void -- just another way of saying mutilate.

For some reason, I mentioned this phrase to Daughter Number 3.1 the other day and wondered aloud what spindle meant. She promptly replied, "It means to roll it into a cylinder." Which made perfect sense.

Looking it up now, I see that's just one possible meaning. It could also mean "to impale it on a spindle, for sorting purposes" -- often done by men wearing green eye shades and sleeve garters, if I remember my accountant stereotypes correctly.

I don't know why I never bothered to learn what spindle meant as a verb; it's such a fun word. Just another one of those knowledge gaps we all seem to have.

4 comments:

Michael Leddy said...

I remember the button (remember buttons?): "I am a human being. Do not fold," etc.

The New Oxford American Dictionary says "a pointed metal rod on a base, used to impale paper items for temporary filing." Which means that spindled items are not just done with?

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

When I was in journalism school, the professor who taught copy editing began his opening lecture with, "The tools of the editor are the spindle, the scissors, and the paste-pot." In class the day's editor-in-chief ripped stories off the wire service printers, assigned a length and a headline size, and stuck each page on the spindle (trying not to stab oneself in the process). The first time I saw the "cut" and "paste" keys on a computer I laughed out loud.

Unemployed Dragon said...

I think that a spindle is also the thing that yarn is wound on to as it comes off of the spinning wheel.

"Daughter 3.1" Thanks for the chuckle!

Pete Hautman said...

Air conditioning killed the spindle. Before AC, windows were left open in offices, and a breezy day could send loose paper flying everywhere. Same with paperweights, which these days is mostly employed for decorative purposes.