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Showing posts with the label linotype

Where have you gone, etaoin shrdlu?

One commonly printed “phrase” has disappeared from the English language.  This “phrase” wasn’t a phrase at all, but it would often appear in print, starting in the late 19th century and vanishing by the 1980s.  The “phrase” would baffle readers who were hard pressed to pronounce it, much less to understand it.  The phrase was “etaoin shrdlu”. “etaoin shrdlu” was the subject of many letters to the editor from readers begging an explanation.  An item in the local paper might look like this: Item in the New York Times, October 30, 1903. A reader might, understandably, want to know what’s going on.  That line, third from the bottom, looks like gibberish, but anyone who read newspapers frequently during this time would have seen the “etaoin shrdlu” part before.  Editors would dutifully explain what it’s all about. You might have guessed that the twelve letters in “etaoin shrdlu” are the most commonly used letters in the English language, from the most frequent to the twelfth