Computer Mice or Mouses?

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 21 17:07:28 UTC 2012

My quick take is that both are used. People like saying "mouses" because
it almost seems sarcastic--and distinct from live mice.

But I have another mouse-related issue.

Amazingly enough, verbs "mouse" and "mouse over" are in the OED. But
neither one corresponds to the use of "mouse over" that appears, for
example, on LanguageLog when one of the bloggers posts a reduced image
of a cartoon.

Here are the two relevant entries in the OED.

> 3.†b. /intr./ /U.S./ to mouse over: to pore over (a book). /Obs./
> 1808 /Salmagundi/ 25 Jan. 426 With ... a table full of books before
> me, to mouse over them alternately.
> 1864 B. Taylor in /Life & Lett./ (1884) II. xvii. 422, I have Little
> and Brown's 'British Poets' complete now, so you'll have wherewithal
> to mouse over.
> 1889 F. E. Gretton /Memory's Harkback/ 137 He was ... always 'mousing'
> over books.


> 6. /intr./ /Computing/. To use a mouse to control an application,
> browse through data, etc. Usually with an adverb, esp. /around/. Also
> /trans./In quot. 1983, a punning reference to the redesign of a
> computer to incorporate a mouse.
> 1981 /ACM SIGSOC Bull/ *13* 118 Overviews are selected by
> 'mousing'‥items on a menu.
> 1983 /InfoWorld/ 31 Oct. 29/1 Apple is mousing around with the II e.
> 1990 /Computer Buyer's Guide & Handbk./ *8* vi. 26/2 We were soon
> zipping through the lessons with a minimum of mousing around.
> 1994 /Microsoft Systems Jrnl./ Aug. 5/2 Moving the mouse over it makes
> the taskbar appear; mousing away makes it vanish—no clicks necessary.

So, "mouse over" does not have a computer-related description and
"mouse" only refers to physically moving the mouse.

The "mouse over" meaning that I am referring to is neither--to mouse
over means to use the mouse /particularly/ to place the cursor over a
specific position, link, button or image. The relevant act is moving the
cursor, not so much moving a mouse. And, of course, this can be
accomplished by non-mouse devices--such as trackballs (a.k.a. trackball
mouses) and trackpads (which are only known as mouses when it come to
the relevant Windows drivers).


On 3/21/2012 12:41 PM, Sallie Lemons wrote:
> Appreciate the humor but it really doesn't answer the question.

The American Dialect Society -

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