• boilerplate •
Pronunciation: boy-lêr-playt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Plate steel used in making boilers. 2. Material received by publishing companies in plate or mat form ready to be printed. 3. A fixed, invariable text used repeatedly no matter what the context or the stereotypical style of writing used for such text.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as both a count and mass noun, just as the word text may be. (Count nouns have plurals; mass nouns do not.) Publishing houses may run many boilerplates, such as advertisements, in their various publications. However, you can also write boilerplate or paste boilerplate (no plural) in a contract, referring to a stereotypical style of writing.
In Play: Boilerplate in its most widely used sense now refers to stereotypical text used repeatedly, often implying insincerity: "Marge will give you the qualifications for the new employee: puff it up with some boilerplate about how wonderful it is to work here and put it in the papers." Lawyers use a lot of boilerplate since contractual relationships tend to be stereotypical: "I need a boilerplate contract that binds employees body and soul to the company so long as they breathe."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a contribution of the newspaper industry in the days when papers were typeset on linotype machines. Linotype machines set preformed chunks of metal, each bearing one letter, in channels that formed lines of print. When a complete page was finished, the filled channels were used as a mold for a large plate containing a whole page of print. The plate was attached to a drum that rotated to print the newspaper. Sometimes solid blocks of print that could not be altered in any way and were used over and over, say an advertisement or a staff listing, were incorporated among the channels. These were called boilerplates and their fixed, reusable content gave today's Good Word its meaning. (We aren't going to use a boilerplate 'thank-you' to express our gratitude to Don McCormick for suggesting today's provocative Good Word.)