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Reference Question of the Week – 5/10/15

   May 16th, 2015

Winston Churchill V for Victory signThis isn't a reference question I received (at least, not recently), but this Reddit thread was too good not to share here:

My mother, despite being in her mid 60's, is awesome with computers. She's a public librarian, and is often at the wrong end of users' questions. I came home for a quick Mother's Day visit and she told me this gem:

User: I can't copy this highlighted section! This mouse must be broken!

Mom: Just press the control and C keys at the same time. Yes, that'll copy it. Now hit the control and V keys at the same time.

User: V?? Why not P?

Mom: V stands for Velcro, so when you paste it, it'll stick.

User: Ooh ok! That makes sense!

TL;DR- My mom is amazing.

I never really questioned if the V stood for anything - I just thought it was chosen because it was next to C (and using P for Print makes more sense). However, one of the comments had a different explanation as to why V=paste:


That is a great answer - but still, it has the feeling of creating a sensible-sounding explanation for something after-the-fact, based on context. Like saying that [sic] is really an abbreviation for "spelling isn't correct." I mean, if the V key wasn't next to the C, would they still have used it?

Either way though, associating Ctrl+V with Velcro is a great way to have that stick in a patron's mind.

And someone please help me with this: is there a word for making up a definition for something after-the-fact? Like the [sic] thing? I feel like there should be, but I can't find it. Sort of like neologism I guess, so maybe "Deflogism."

Thanks Chris.

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10 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 5/10/15”

  1. Pattanapong T. Says:

    Is it the same as false etymology (or psudoetymology)?

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Pattanapong: that does sound pretty much right, I was just hoping for a snazzy word for it. Something perhaps, making a play on the word “derivation,” like “daffyvation.” I do like psudoetymology though.

  3. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    I’m also surprised that there’s not a better word for it, since it happens so much. Plus, linguists are usually so good about providing us with gems like “backronym” and “CANOE” (the Conspiracy to Attribute Nautical Origins to Everything.)

    I propose “feelogism,” which can be applied to any situation in which you don’t know the real etymology, so you just go with your gut.

  4. Brandy Stillman Says:

    What about “Sniglet?” http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniglet

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Librarian: yes yes, exactly like “backronym.” And I like “feelogism” but I can’t figure out how to pronounce it.

    @Brandy: I had not heard of Sniglets – which also sounds not entirely unlike The Meaning of Liff.

  6. Anne Says:

    I’ve always assumed CTRL-V was selected since the V key is next to the C key.

  7. Ben Says:

    I had fun looking through the various links and definitions above. Much of the linguistic theory is above my pay-grade, but if I were looking to create a neologism to help define this process, I might start with the concept of abductive reasoning as it applies to the linguistic practice of reanalysis. If I understand it correctly, it describes coming up with a hypothesis based on patterns or assumptions that feel right but may not be appropriate. A construction with that would therefore has the same meaning as “feelogism” without the unfortunate mashing up of incompatible language roots.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Anne: I’m with you Anne, and I think Occam’s Razor is too.

    @Ben: I think you’ve gotten above my pay-grade too – I didn’t even consider the roots of the words I was putting together. But then again, if our grammatical ancestors had done their job in the first place and created a word for this, we wouldn’t have to be hacking on together now. Like W. C. Minor couldn’t have come up with just one more word…

  9. christie Says:

    I tell my students that it’s option-V like the tip of a glue bottle. Velcro makes sense too. 🙂

  10. Brian Herzog Says:

    @christie: I wonder if Ctrl+V can be used as a new version of the Rorschach test – if you see a glue bottle, you’re a creative/crafty person, if you see an editor’s mark, you’re a grammar/technical person, and if you think it’s just because V is next to C you are very pragmatic/boring. And the Velcro people are geniuses.