"floppy disk"--why "floppy"?

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu May 10 01:35:29 UTC 2001

    The following passage may be of interest--excerpted from "The
Great Term Robbery," by Neville Holmes, _Computer_, May 2001, p.96,
continued on pp.94-95 (sic: page order); p.96:
     'The computing industry has also suffered from marketing
hyperbole--christening data diskettes "floppy disks" provides but one
example.  Clothes flop,dough flops, dot-coms flop, but diskettes
don't.  Even the earliest versions, which lacked rigid covers, merely
flexed. So why call them floppies?
     'To better distribute microprogram code, IBM developed the
diskette drive in the late 1960s.  In the 1970s, when this storage
medium became widely used, marketers must have found the sober name
"diskette" too bland, and so coined "floppy" to jazz it up.
        'Why not "flexy"? Well, by the 1970s marketers within the
computer industry had drained all meaning from the word "flexible" by
dubbing *everything* flexible:  programs, computers, controllers,
tape drives, card readers, printers, application programs, suppliers,
even customers.  Marketers routinely suffer from such naming
exuberance.  In the 1980s "user friendly" dominated; in the 1990s
"intelligent" took pride of place; and in the 200s, "e-" appears to
lead the pack.'


    So when the contributions of marketers to the English lexicon are
compiled, "floppy disk" should evidently be included.

    And just for reference, the end of the article identifies the
author: "Neville Holmes is an honorary research associate and a
lecturer under contract at the University of Tasmania's School of

---Gerald Cohen

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