[Ads-l] fool-proof and fail-proof

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu Aug 20 17:48:17 UTC 2015

When I worked in an automobile factory in the 1990s, I was told that 
both English and Japanese had undergone a movement away from using 
"fool" ("baka" in Japanese) to describe these mechanisms so as to not 
insult workers. A summary can be found of the Japanese issue on various 
websites, including http://thequalityportal.com/pokayoke.htm, 
and http://leanmanufacturingtools.org/494/poka-yoke/.

I don't see a webpage describing this for the English words, so my 
memory might be bad or maybe it's just not out there.

The word "poka-yoke" (with or without the hyphen) has entered English in 
lean manufacturing. It isn't on the Oxford Dictionary site, but it is 
defined in Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/poka-yoke): "A 
methodology of using low-cost techniques to error-proof production 
processes." I think "poke-yoke" is more about the mechanism itself, but 
perhaps it covers the concept as well.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

Learn Ainu! https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/home

> Stephen Goranson <mailto:goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> 20 August 2015 at 10:19
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header 
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject: fool-proof and fail-proof
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> OED has fool-proof from 1902.
> OED does not have a fail-proof entry, but does include a quote under 
> risk, =
> n.:
> 2007 N.Y. Times 20 May (T: Style Mag.) 161/3 It [sc. the city of Cartag=
> ena] passes the 'staggering home drunk through predawn streets while 
> bellow=
> ing Shakira' test, a fail-proof diagnostic of any locale's risk level.
> Fail-proof seems to be increasing in use. E.g., a recent comment on 
> the Ira=
> n nuclear plan: "I believe verification is a long way from fail proof."
> Google Ngram shows a slight decrease for fool-proof in recent years.
> An antedating for foolproof:
> [AHN] Evening Star [Washington DC] 11-14-1895 p. 3 col. 1
> [ad for a bicycle, apparently:]
> ..the '96 tire will be "foolproof." You CAN'T put it on wrong.
> Stephen Goranson
> http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list