Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Apr 20 01:08:24 UTC 2005

This has always seemed to be a folk etymology of the supposedly erudite "freeze...brass monkey" type to me, since no one ever seemed to give details about Joyce.  No cites are to hand, but the assertion was made more than once in popular aviation writing in the '20s and later.


"Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
Subject: Re: joystick

> OED has 1910 for joystick, but no etymology.
>from the U.S.S. Lexington _Observer_, 27 July 1929. p2 col 1.
>"The Joy Stick
>Very few of the people in general know the origin of the term "Joy
>Stick" used in control of planes. Many consider it a slang expression
>whereas it is really named after Robert Joyce, an Englishman, who
>developed this type of control just before the World War."
>Michael Quinion's World Wide Words alludes to this story, but here is an
>old cite to back it up.

Here's another ... or maybe the same one:


_Washington Post_, 12 May 1929: p. A8:

<ailerons and flippers of the modern air mail plane, was originally "Joyce
stick," after its inventor, a pioneer English aeronautical engineer.>>


Several Web sites give this etymology, but without evidence. A few modern
instances of "Joyce stick" for "joystick" can be found, but maybe this is a
modern 'correction' following this supposed etymology (whether it's true or
not) rather than an old usage.

The only early aeronautical Joyce who comes to light on quick search is
Temple Joyce (middle name apparently Nash), apparently a WW I pilot (AEF)
and later apparently associated with the Berliner-Joyce airplane company. I
find mention of a paper by Temple N. Joyce (presumably the same man)
published in _Trans. A. S. M. E._ [56(4):193-201] in 1934 entitled "Zap
Flaps and Ailerons".

-- Doug Wilson

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