Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Some long-toothed readers of this forum may remember that photocopiers were not always available. Before these office machines became standard issue, we ran off multiple copies of documents on devices we called “mimeographs” and “dittographs.”
To use mimeograph technology, a document image was cut into a waxy stencil sheet, usually with a typewriter. The stencil would then be mounted on an inked drum and ink would be transferred, as the drum turned, through the stencil holes and onto a piece of dry paper. Edison invented the mimeograph machine in the late 1800s, but the name I associate with mimeographs is “Gestetner,” an English chap who started up a company to produce stencil copiers in the early 1900s.
“Dittograph” was the trademarked name of a spirit duplicator that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The machine was manufactured by the . To make ditto copies, we would write what we wanted to copy on two-layer ditto paper. The second page resembled a reverse sheet of carbon paper. The gooey, usually purple ink that adhered to back of the top sheet could transfer the document image to blank pages when the pages were coated with a methanol/isopropanol solvent. I feel sorry for those too young to remember the ethereal, hallucinogenic, and slightly addictive smell of a fresh sheet of dittoed paper (See of this clip from Fast Times at Ridgemont High). The precipitous was, I believe, due entirely to the phasing out of spirit duplication technology. Students were coming off a twenty-year high.
The name “dittograph” was adapted from the English word “ditto,” a term we borrowed from the Italian “detto” in the seventeenth century. By the late eighteenth century the phrase “say ditto to,” meaning to agree with, had become widespread. Today we most often hear “ditto” in three contexts: (1) as a noun in the phrase “ditto for [the thing/event duplicated]” (e.g., “The Yankees collapsed in the August stretch; ditto for the Mets.”), (2) as the one-word interjection “ditto,” meaning “the same thing” or “I agree,” and (3) in the phase “ditto marks,” the quotation-mark-like strokes that indicate a repeated entry in a document.
The modern word “ditto” is usually pronounced “diddo.” Which may explain as “diddo.” It is possible, though, that an eye eggcorn is at work in some of the rejigged spellings. “Diddo” is “did-do,” and “did-do” could be another way of conceptualizing the repetition implied by “ditto.” A “diddo mark,” for example, might be an indication that you already did do what you are noting by the mark. As an ear eggcorn, however, “diddo” does not work so well – the last syllable of “ditto” has a long “o,” not the “oo” of “do.”