[Ads-l] "Wipe/Swipe" Test (for radioactivity), but verb is only "wipe"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Tue Nov 7 15:47:04 EST 2017

A former student of mine (now an alumnus) recently passed along the following dialectal observation:

“At work, we frequently perform or review records of ‘wipe tests’ that people perform for radiation.  When I go to classes/conferences, people from other regions commonly call them ‘swipe tests’. Seems that east and west coast use s-, while the rest of the country drops it in this case!”

“The test is comprised entirely of taking a small circle of cloth, wiping it in an area where radioactivity has been used, then putting the cloth in a detector to measure if any radioactive material was picked up (and therefore present) in the area wiped.
     “I think everyone involved with this refers to the action as ‘wiping’ with the cloth. However, the test itself is known as a ‘Wipe Test’ or ‘Swipe Test’ even if no one says to ‘swipe’ with the cloth.”

Gerald Cohen

Missouri University of Science & Technology

Rolla, MO 65409

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

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