[Ads-l] Question About Grace Murray Hopper As Word-Coiner

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Feb 13 15:11:31 EST 2017


The relevant claim from the press release in today’s Yale News clips, which seems to me to be misleading at best in implying a moth-“(de)-bug” connection:

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One evening in 1945 while working on the Mark II, Hopper and her colleagues encountered a problem. They took the machine apart and found a large moth. Although the term “bug” had been used by engineers since the 19th century to describe a mechanical malfunction, Hopper was the first to refer to a computer problem as a “bug” and to speak of “debugging” a computer.

http://news.yale.edu/2017/02/10/grace-murray-hopper-1906-1992-legacy-innovation-and-service
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My spidey sense leads me to anticipate an upcoming Yale Alumni News column from Fred...

LH


> On Feb 13, 2017, at 1:16 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> wrote:
> 
> Maybe, in view of the decision my university has made to honor Grace Murray Hopper, I should forget my decades-long debunking of the Hopper "bug" myth and instead emphasize her possible factual claim to word-coining immortality.  If one considers the specific usage of "bug" applied to computers as an important subsense of the word, as opposed to merely an example of the broader engineering usage, then Hopper may reasonably be considered as the coiner of that subsense.  I would welcome input as to whether the computer meaning merits a separate subsense.  Oxford and Merriam-Webster do not include such a subsense.
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> 
> Fred Shapiro
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> 
> 
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY RDECOM AMRDEC (US) <william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL>
> Sent: Monday, February 13, 2017 12:49 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Grace Murray Hopper Honored by Yale
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
>> -----Original Message-----
> 
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Shapiro, Fred
> 
>> Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2017 5:29 PM
> 
>> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> 
>> Subject: Re: Grace Murray Hopper Honored by Yale
> 
>> 
> 
>> 
> 
>> 
> 
>> ----
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>> 
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>> I was the first to really question the Hopper/moth myth, in several articles beginning in the 1980s.  The definitive citations are given by
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>> Peggy Kidwell in an article in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.  I believe she traced "debugging" back to 1944.
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>> 
> 
>> Fred Shapiro
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> 
> Stalking the elusive computer bug
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>  P. A. Kidwell
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> IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
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> Year: 1998, Volume: 20, Issue: 4
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> Pages: 5 - 9, DOI: 10.1109/85.728224
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> 
> She cites some other articles of interest, including
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> 
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> F.R. Shapiro, "'The First Bug' Examined," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 6, no. 2, p. 164, 1984.
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> and
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> F.R. Shapiro, "Etymology of the Computer Bug:  History and Folklore," Am. Speech, vol. 62, pp 376-378, 1987.
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