Fwd: chad

Evan Morris words1 at WORD-DETECTIVE.COM
Mon Nov 27 15:20:33 UTC 2000

Forwarded with permission, an interesting comment from one of my readers:

>From: BobKamman at aol.com
>Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000 14:40:11 EST
>Subject: My theory on chad
>To: questions at word-detective.com
>X-Mailer: Windows AOL sub 115
>In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, I write:
>Not to nitpick, but it is highly unlikely that the word "chad" originated
>from an invention by a Mr. Chadless, to keypunch tape or cards in a way that
>did not create confetti residue (Comment: Words, Nov. 22).  A search of
>several genealogical databases turns up no one with that last name except one
>man in North Carolina in 1860.
>A better theory is that the term originated from the British military slang
>term "chat," for louse, as in the tiny flat rectangular insects about the
>size of a chad.  Some evidence for this comparison comes from an April 1988
>computer hacker newsletter, preserved by several websites, which advises:
>"The first thing to do is empty the card punch's punchbin of all the little
>punchlets, and throw them in someone's hair some rowdy night.  I guarantee
>the little suckers will stay in their hair for six months, they are
>impossible to get out.  Static or something makes them cling like lice.
>Showers don't even work."
>The slang "chat" may be derived from the earlier, more common meaning of the
>word.  One website devoted to British World War I terminology reports:  "Lice
>were the soldier's constant companions and were known colloquially as
>'chats.' Troops used to congregate in groups to de-louse themselves, and
>de-lousing, or  'chatting' became a social event."

Evan Morris
words1 at word-detective.com

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