James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Jun 8 00:09:02 UTC 2003

In a message dated 6/7/03 2:32:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time, mam at THEWORLD.COM

> Am I the only one who notices when people say ["cut and paste"] in a
computer context
>  when they really mean "copy and paste"?

Yes, you are.  Twenty years ago I was an evaluator of word-processing
packages for the Corps of Engineers and I didn't notice it then or now.

Actually it's an example of what I call linguistic inertia.  The original
pre-computer process of "cut-and-paste" involved cutting out the desired words
with scissors or knife and pasting them elsewhere.  If you wanted to
copy-and-paste, you had to take what you cut to a reproducing machine to make a
copy---frequently easier to copy in longhand and retype, especially considering the
quality of machine copies before the Xerox Corporation came along.

Designers of editing and later word processing systems "copied" the
expression "cut-and-paste" verbatim even though electronic copying of text was trivial.

Incidentally, I once used a word processing program that did not have "copy
and paste".  Instead, to copy text, you had to cut it from the document and
then paste it back into the original location as well as to the new location.
(The WP package was "Word-11" for the PDP-11 from a forgotten vendor.  It was
the quirkiest WP package I've ever encountered, but made up for that by being
the easiest to learn.)

      - Jim Landau

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