"chad"--a possible origin

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Nov 19 17:57:35 UTC 2000

  I have been looking over Barry Popik's  recent ads-l information on
"chad" and FWIW have been speculating on its origin:

(1) Barry's first attestation (aside from OED2) comes from June 1960, and
the context of all his attestations is automatic data processing. (I do not
have OED2 handy;  Barry gives 1959 as its first cite of "chad.")

(2) We therefore deal with the context of "tech-speak"and the etymology
must therefore be sought in this context.

(3) With a search for a  precedent in, say, Middle English, therefore
almost certainly  unfruitful, the question is: Where in the world could
young technically oriented people have turned to for inspiration that would
result in a word whose origin is not readily transparent?

(4) The only likely answer that occurred to me is: an an acronym or partial
But what words could plausibly form the acronym?

(5) When I  took a second look  at Barry's information, two points stood
out: (a) the specific mention of "automatic data" in the 1960 publication
"Glossary of Terms Used In Automatic Data Processing." This might (and I
emphasize "might") be reflected in the "-ad" part of "chad."
      (b) The second is the mention of a chad as a "chip" in the following
>1972--IBM DATA PROCESSING GLOSSARY.  Pg. 20, col. 2:
>_chad._  The piece of material removed when forming a hole or notch in a
>storage medium such as punched tape or punched cards.  Synonymous with chip.

(6) So my tentatively advanced, speculative etymology of "chad" is
(drumroll, please):
an acronym of CHip of Automatic Data.

-----Gerald Cohen

gcohen at umr.edu

More information about the Ads-l mailing list