Not to age myself (to not age myself?  LOL), but I remember back when I started as a cub newspaper reporter that page composition was done by linotype.  On a linotype machine, which produced hot metal slugs that would be arranged together and used for printing, the characters of the alphabet were arranged in vertical columns by frequency of use.  Thus, the first two rows were ETAOIN and SHRDLU.

When a linotypist made an error, s/he couldn’t correct the error, so it was a simple procedure to run one’s finger down the first two columns and create a nonsense, one-line slug that could be discarded.

Thus the fictional personage of Etaoin Shrdlu was born.

I remember when we particularly disliked a story that we had had to cover, or an article that we had written, we would byline it By Etaoin Shrdlu

Of course, this would never make it past the copy editor.  Today, it doesn’t matter since most if not all copy editors have been fired and replaced by Mr. Spell Checker, and linotypes have been melted down to make skyscrapers in Shanghai, or some such place.  Or maybe it was Yugos.

Anyway, I came upon this blast from the past while once again researching "phrases in the English language" online.

I promise I’ll get to an explanation of phrases and their usages tomorrow, but for now let Mr. Shrdlu take center stage.  If, however, you want to keep current with new English phrases (I think they mean slang and vernacular sayings),  you can subscribe to Phrase-a-Week.  I did for the heck of it.

3 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: ETAOIN SHRDLU

  1. Could you comment on the word “irregardless”?
    Also regardless vs. irregardless in usage? I
    thought that there wasn’t such a word as
    irregardless, but I hear it used quite often.

  2. You’re absolutely right. Irregardless is a nonword. People who use it fall into my category of “English and its many abusers.”

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