Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jan 23 19:36:43 UTC 2001

>    "Chad" appears in articles that mention "code holes."  Possible
> acronym after all?

Not impossible, but

(1) the apocryphal acronym for "card hole aggregate debris" is doubtful
since the earliest chads seem to have been from telegraphy tape;

(2) even with "card" replaced with "code", the "aggregate" remains doubtful
since the earliest chads seem to have been countable;

(3) acronyms were much less usual before WW II than they are now,
generally, I think.

I have been reading patents. Pre-1950, I don't find "chads" except in
telegraphy. I find in the same sense "chips", "clippings", "punchings",
"wads", "discs", "slugs", "pieces". Even in telegraphy, "discs" and "chips"
turn up more often than "chads", based on cursory (but still very tedious)
examination of a few hundred documents.

I think I can explain the "Mr. Chadless" story now: the term "chadless
tape" apparently preceded the term "chad tape", and "chadless tape" may
have been common before "chad(s)" became common, "chad(s)" being something
noticeable by virtue of its absence. But "chadless tape" clearly < "chad(s)".

And I have another tentative -- so far unsubstantiated --
etymology/explanation for "chad" itself.

If I should recover solid information, might I consider publishing it
somewhere? "American Speech"? "Notes and Queries"? Send it to Safire? Send
it to Quinion? Anybody interested in collaborating?

-- Doug Wilson

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