etaoin shrdlu

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Grand Panjandrum
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etaoin shrdlu

Postby Stargzer » Wed Jun 04, 2008 7:19 pm

I came across this unusual gem whilst checking my venerable Webster's to make sure I was using et. al. (Latin et alii - and others) properly. I've linked to Wikipedia for ease of copying and linking.

Wikipedia wrote:ETAOIN SHRDLU

ETAOIN SHRDLU is the approximate order of frequency of the twelve most commonly used letters in the English language, best known as a nonsense phrase that sometimes appeared in print in the days of "hot type" publishing due to a custom of Linotype machine operators.

Linotype history

As the letters on Linotype keyboards were arranged by letter frequency, ETAOIN SHRDLU were the first two vertical columns on the left side of the keyboard. Linotype operators who had made a typing error could not easily go back to delete it, and had to finish the line before they could eject the slug and re-key a new one. Since the line with the error would be discarded and hence its contents didn't matter (and since the line needed to be filled to successfully pass through the casting unit), the quickest way to enter enough letters to finish it was to run a finger down the keys, creating this nonsense phrase. ...


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Postby Slava » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:54 am

By the by, for those who haven't looked yet, the Wikipedia link has pictures, too. You can see what the text is talking about, which helped me understand. Enjoy.
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Postby Perry » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:09 pm

I did.
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