5 Phrases You Didn’t Know Came From Printing

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Commonly used phrases can have some very surprising origins, especially when the technology or cultural reference they came from are no longer in use. It makes you wonder which of today’s terms will make no sense to future generations. Check out the print related phrases below— they might surprise you!

  1. Stereotype

    Today’s Meaning

    A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

    Origin

    A single metal plate that was cast from a mold of set type. The system of stereotyping was developed to save the typesetter from having to reset the page for each reprint. This also freed up limited typesetting materials. Whenever a published piece became popular enough for multiple reprints it would justify the higher costs of stereotyping.

  2. Cliché

    Today’s Meaning

    A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

    Origin

    Cliché is the word for stereotyping in french. However, instead of casting entire pages from metal, the French would cast commonly used phrases which would then be set among other freestanding letters. These phrases were so frequently used that they became clichés. The word itself is an onomatopoeia in that it’s the french verb for click, the sound made when metal was struck to create plates.

  3. Typecasting

    Today’s Meaning

    Assign an actor repeatedly to the same type of role, as a result of the appropriateness of their appearance or previous success in such roles.

    Origin

    Casting is the process of shaping metal by pouring it in molten form into a mold and then letting it cool. Type was made this way, hence, “type-casting” or re-creating the same product from the same mold. Additionally, the same metal shaping method is also where the term “to fit a mold” comes from.

  4. Make an Impression

    Today’s Meaning

    Produce a strong effect on one. This phrase is often qualified with an adjective such as good, bad, strong, or the like.

    Origin

    If you are and impressive athlete, looking to make a great impression, or have been called impressionable, you are using words with the same latin root, “imprimere,” which means to “press into or upon,” or “stamp.” The term originates from the early 15th century directly from printing.

  5. Ditto

    Today’s Meaning

    The same thing again (used in lists and accounts and often indicated by a ditto mark under the word or figure to be repeated).

    Origin

    This word is actually originally from the Italian word, “detto,” which means “to say.” Ditto, or the symbol was used as shorthand to repeat an already written excerpt, but it gained traction after the ditto machine was invented in 1923. It was a small pre-copy machine that was used by schools and churches, etc. for creating multiple copies from the same original.

 
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