Keyboarding and typing

« previous post | next post »

From Barbara Phillips Long:

When did the word "keyboarding" replace "typing" in my vocabulary? I don't remember. It was hard to look up, because mostly my searches defaulted to "keyboard," which in this case is not helpful. But apparently it is a less common term than I thought. Take a look at these comments at Ask a Manager, where Alison Green provides workplace advice:

Richard Hershberger     *September 21, 2021 at 11:48 am

As an aside, when did the word “keyboarding” enter the language, and “typing” drop out? I’m not complaining about it. I am genuinely curious. About five years back I was at Back to School night where my kid’s teacher mentioned instructing in “keyboarding.” She was probably in her mid-twenties. I didn’t know the word, so I asked her if that was what we used to call “typing.” She was befuddled. She had never heard the word.


Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est    *September 21, 2021 at 1:05 pm

As an aside, when did the word “keyboarding” enter the language, and “typing” drop out?

Keying, as in “rekeying a passage of text,” has been around and I’ve heard it many times over at least 30 years. Until your post, I’d only heard “Keyboarding” on Frets-of-Fire, an F/L/OSS Guitar Hero clone, and it referred to turning the keyboard over to play as a guitar hybrid.


Alexander Graham Yell     *September 21, 2021 at 1:17 pm

So I googled it and the reasoning makes sense, but this is the first time I’ve seen it called keyboarding and it’s kind of blowing my mind a little. (The change in name reflects the change in tool – we are no longer using typewriters anymore, we’re using keyboards.)


Starbuck     *September 21, 2021 at 1:47 pm

When did “keyboarding” enter the language? For me, that time is still in the future I guess! I still see and use typing way more often than “keyboarding” (which to me brings to mind playing notes on an electric piano keyboard, not typing).

Weird! Must be a regional thing.

In that post, there were various discussions of "manageress," which might also interest LL readers.


Selected readings


  1. Ralph J Hickok said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:13 am

    "Keying" was a telegrapher's term, as I learned from my grandfather, who was once a telegrapher for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad .

  2. Ross Presser said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:21 am

    Google ngram :

    It says it first appeared in the 1920s, which … surprises me.

  3. Trogluddite said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:37 am

    Alexander Graham Bell (quoted in OP) said: "The change in name reflects the change in tool – we are no longer using typewriters anymore, we’re using keyboards."

    I would have guessed that the "change in tool" reflected by the neologism would be that the majority of 'typing' is now done using touch-screens; thus, "keyboarding" indicates the use of a physical keyboard (i.e. with the tactile response required for touch typing).

    However, I can't find any explicit reference to confirm this; though many of the top Google hits I get for "keyboarding" do relate to touch-typing tuition, and text entry by touch-screen is commonly referred to as "typing" by the people I know who use such devices (I find the lack of tactile response incredibly discombobulating personally, so prefer not to).

  4. Trogluddite said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:39 am

    *Alexander Graham Yell, not Bell!

  5. Bloix said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:52 am

    Having reviewed some of the books producing the ngram result found by Ross Presser, I conclude"keyboarding" in the early 20th C had a specialized meaning limited to the printing trade – it appears to refer to the typesetting process using the Monotype machine. Wikipedia tells us that the Monotype company introduced a keyboard for typesetting in 1906.

    Perhaps "keyboarding" came into use because "typing" would have been overbroad – any system of typesetting could have been been encompassed by "typing."

  6. Richard Hershberger said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:01 am

    I have nothing to add to the discussion, but I am struck at seeing this pop up here based on my raising the question at Ask A Manager. It is like the time I and my wife, who teaches high school, ran into a former student of hers a hundred miles away in a different state: just a coincidence, but startling. Or perhaps there are patterns of internet usage where the same people tend to read the same sites, even when their topics are unrelated?

  7. Andreas Johansson said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:29 am

    While I'd probably figured it out from context, I'm not sure if I've encountered "keyboarding" before.

    Distinguishing "keyboarding" on a keyboard from typing on a touchscreen or whatnot sounds reasonable, but given that my commonest expression (in English) for producing text with a keyboard has to be "write", I'm evidently not big on such niceties.

  8. Brian Ogilvie said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:53 am

    When I was in high school in the mid-1980s in Michigan, the class that used to be called "Typing" had just been renamed "Keyboarding" to reflect the shift to computers.

  9. Genevieve said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:55 am

    For what it's worth, my high school typing/secretarial class in the late 90s (US Midwest) was called "Keyboarding." It was an awkward word then and it's awkward now. We called the actual act "typing."

  10. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:57 am

    I first heard typing referred to as keyboarding back in 2003 or 2004, when my nephews were in elementary school in the SF Bay Area. Since then, I’ve known few young people who call it typing (my nephews are now almost 30 years old), though they do know what the word means.

  11. Erin B. said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 10:06 am

    The change from "Typing Class" to "Keyboarding Class" at my high school was based on gender stereotypes: when I attended (1980s) it was clear that only *girls* took Typing. The Typing teacher started an after-school "Computer Club" where boys could learn to touch-type without being mocked. A few years later, Typing Class became Keyboarding Class (and therefore socially acceptable for teenage boys) so the stigma went away.

  12. Alexander Browne said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 10:20 am

    I'm a mid-thirties American, and I agree with Andreas Johansson.

  13. Brett said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 10:34 am

    Like several other people, I associate the term “keyboarding” with high school typing class. In my case, high school was in the early 1990s; the official name of the class was still “Typing,” but the class was taught entirely on computers; the school’s original typewriters had been discarded a year or two before I reached ninth grade (although a couple of teachers had grabbed one before it was thrown out and still sometimes got it out to use it for typing on forms and certificates). However, although the physical apparatus used for typing was a computer, the class (and the computerized typing instruction programs that the teachers recommended) still focused on teaching students how to type up handwritten documents. This meant, for example, that students were forbidden to look at the keyboard, on the assumption that they would need to keep their eye on the document they were keying in. It took a few more years before it dawned on the teachers and programmers teaching keyboarding that henceforth, people would be composing their own documents at the computer, so there was nothing wrong—for example—with looking at the keyboard for some guidance.

  14. Victor Mair said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 10:41 am

    When I was a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina in 1991, there was still a pool of typists who helped us convert our manuscripts into typescripts. When I went back a decade or so later, the typists were all gone because the fellows were keyboarding their papers and books directly into computers.

  15. Michael DeBusk said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 10:43 am

    I graduated high school in the mid-1980s and the class was called "typing" and taught on typewriters. When I enrolled in college the following semester, the college offered classes in both "typing" and "keyboarding," with the distinction being whether or not a typewriter was involved.

  16. Sniffnoy said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 11:38 am

    Huh; I would have said that "typing" refers to typing text, while "keyboarding" refers to using the keyboard (and all the keys on it!) for other purposes, like say navigating a TUI. But apparently that is not how most people would use the word!

  17. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 12:30 pm

    For those who may be wondering, the question about “manageress” arose this way:

    Employee keeps referring to me as his “manageress”

    I was recently promoted from a four person team and became the head of that team, replacing a male manager who departed.

    I have no complaints, except that one person consistently refers to me in emails to others as his “manageress” instead of his “manager” – e.g. “I’ve copied my manageress into this email”.

    Even with that person, I have no complaints about his performance, which makes me think I should just let it drop, but I wanted to ask if you think that’s the right thing to do and also if it’s normal to refer to female managers as “manageresses”?

    No, it’s not normal. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s doing it because he thinks it’s funny, but you should tell him to stop because your gender doesn’t need to be such a focus of how he identifies you at work. Also, it’s like the problem with saying “male nurse” or “woman cop”; he’s saying that he thinks that men are the default for managers.

    I’d say this: “Hey, Bob, I know that’s meant to be funny, but please cut it out; I don’t want that kind of focus on gender on our team.”

    Among the comments were these remarks about cultural differences in usage in English depending on geographic area:

    September 21, 2021 at 5:40 am
    Good heavens, I am 42 and have never heard of anyone saying “manageress” outside of Victoria Wood sketches. If Bob truly thinks “manageress” is a polite and respectful term, he has led a very sheltered existence and I would be on the lookout for other examples of discomfort with the 21st century.

    ▼ Collapse 1 reply

    September 21, 2021 at 8:12 am
    “…discomfort with the 21st century.”
    And there’s the laugh I needed this morning! Excellent turn of phrase.

    September 21, 2021 at 5:41 am
    My mum (in her early 70s) knows that terms like ‘manageress’ are out of date but she still sometimes slips and uses them, because back when she was working (in the 1970s) it was seen as the respectful way of referring to someone.

    ▼ Collapse 2 replies

    Happy Lurker*
    September 21, 2021 at 10:17 am
    My MIL likes Esquiress for her attorney (female). It makes my skin crawl.

    ▼ Collapse 1 reply

    London Calling*
    September 21, 2021 at 3:21 pm
    In the mid 70s I worked in a government department that dealt with national insurance contributions (I’m in the UK). We used to get files from other offices and I recall a couple of them that referred to women as clerkesses – which IIRC was a Scottish term. To add to that the women were called Jamesina and Andrewina.

    September 21, 2021 at 3:52 am
    It is definitely a cultural thing. In some parts of Africa, referring to “manageress” (or “managerette”), “lawyeress”, “pilotess”, etc.. is considered the normal and respectful way to do things. In fact, NOT using those terms is considered sexist and unappreciative of women’s rights in the work place.

    ▼ Collapse 12 replies

    Femme d'Afrique*
    September 21, 2021 at 7:10 am
    This is fascinating and I’ve never come across it! What countries do this?

    In my country what really gets me is the term “Lady Justice” to refer to female judges, as though the default for a Supreme/Appellate Court judge is male.

    ▼ Collapse 11 replies

    September 21, 2021 at 7:17 am
    It’s the norm in West Africa in particular.
    Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone for example. Less so in Southern or Eastern Africa.

  18. KeithB said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 1:28 pm

    A couple of related words:
    "Keypunch Machine"

    Keyboarding might have come from those since it makes no sense to "type" on a punch card (though there was text at the top of the card IIRC).

  19. Christopher Nugent said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 1:48 pm

    "When I was in high school in the mid-1980s in Michigan, the class that used to be called 'Typing' had just been renamed 'Keyboarding' to reflect the shift to computers."

    Brian Ogilvie– I find this very interesting as I was also in high school in Michigan in the mid-1980s. In my freshman year ('83–'84) I took a class that was definitely call "Typing." Indeed it was in a room with 30 or so typewriters loudly pounding away. I think I knew a few people who had used a Commodore 64 but very very few of us had used computer keyboards at all, let alone used them frequently. Indeed, I still typed all my papers on a typewriter my freshman year of college.

  20. Paul McCombs said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 3:02 pm

    I graduated from high school in Washington state in 1989. 2 quarters of Typing was required to take Computer Science class. We alternated weeks between IBM Selectric typewriters and Apple II computers. But we always called in typing.

  21. Philip Taylor said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 6:21 pm

    [Context: "Manageress"]. I asked my wife (49, Vietnamese born of Chinese/Vietnamese parents, resident in UK for around 30 years, owner of a hotel in Cornwall) whether she would be offended if a member of staff referred to her as "my manageress". Her reply made it clear that not only would she not be offended, she could see no reason why she should be offended. Equally, she would not be in the least offended if a member of staff referred to her as "my manager".

    [On topic] — I spend much of each day at my computer, reading, researching, thinking and typing. I never keyboard.

  22. JPL said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 6:26 pm

    "All papers must be keyboarded, Times New Roman, 12 point …"
    " I've got enough notes; now all I have to do is keyboard it up."
    A: I'm too clumsy. I'm looking for a good keyboardist."
    B: "How about Herbie Hancock?"
    "I haven't keyboarded it yet."
    "The message was keyboarded in comic sans."

    Has this innovation extended to these kinds of contexts? (The word has not yet entered my vocabulary, i.e., I've never used it (as a verb, referring to the activity) even once.)

    Since the function of the typewriter machine is to write type, and the computer machine also ultimately writes type, why does the term referring to the activity of writing type have to change with the change of machine? It seems to be irrelevant. Does it belong to the progression "typer" (unqualified), "typist" (qualified, but subordinate in the office), "word-keyboardist" (computer geek, deserving more money), etc.? Why didn't they used to say "typewriterist" instead of typist? Have similar changes affected the activity of typesetting? Presumably the use of 'key' to refer to the instrument that produces the different notes on a piano preceded the maybe metaphorical use of that category to refer to the instrument that produces the different letters on a machine for writing type.

  23. John Swindle said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 7:49 pm

    Compare skateboarding, snowboarding, boogie boarding. Why can't we turn the key and ride on it?

    Then there's "tabling." Two, contradictory senses of the word are well known: putting something on the agenda vs. removing it from discussion. Merriam-Webster says it can also mean entering something into a table. Recently, though, I've been noticing a fourth, intransitive meaning: sitting at a table and offering partisan or informational flyers to passersby. The term is used by American organizations as disparate as Veterans for Peace, the National Rifle Association, and the American Association of University Women. Related terms: tabling, event, advocacy.

  24. Andrew Usher said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:33 pm

    'Keyboarding' must be a school thing, yes, I've heard it, but I'm quite sure the normal word is typing, and that's what I use and expect others to use. You're also right that 'keyboarding' suggests the musical variety of keyboard (which of course came first).

    Also, 'manageress' is not a word and never has been (it feels awkward to even say in either possible pronunciation); English, unlike some other languages, does not innovate unnecessary gendered terms.

    k_over_hbarc at

  25. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 8:55 pm

    @Andrew Usher — One of the commenters seems to back you up on the artificiality of “manageress,” while managing to introduce another word, “editrix,” that others were not familiar with:

    Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*
    September 21, 2021 at 9:56 am
    I see further downthread reports that in some African countries manageress is the norm, and not agreeing for gender is felt to be sexist

    Manageress felt made-up to me, too, and inventing a new word isn’t going to be respectful. I’m not surprised to see it be real, but I wasn’t expecting it. I’ll use comedienne, waitress, editrix, executrix, lioness, etc, until asked not to, because I recognize them as real words and my upbringing and foreign-language education taught me that it’s respectful to use them, but I draw the line at inventing new words.

    September 21, 2021 at 12:08 pm
    I don’t quite see how “editrix” is less made-up than “manageress”?

    Simply the best*
    September 21, 2021 at 12:40 pm
    Yeah, if somebody use that word in real life I would imagine 1. I wouldn’t know what they were saying and 2. Once I did figure it out, I would assume that they were time traveling from a 1930s movie.

    Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*
    September 21, 2021 at 12:51 pm
    I don’t quite see how “editrix” is less made-up than “manageress”?

    One I recognize and the other I didn’t. Something about “Manageress” as a word just seems off–like maybe a redundant suffix (manage + er + ess). But the Internet would seem to suggest it’s just an obscure word I’ve never come across.

  26. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 9:36 pm

    When I was in college in New York State during the early 1970s, there were still department secretaries in academic and administrative offices and freelance typists who provided editing and typing services for academic manuscripts and theses. This was the era punched cards, so there were also keypunchers who used their typing skills, mostly for data entry.

    The word secretary has gone the way of the dodo in my experience. Now folks who have similar positions are called “admins.”

    Recently I have been at several medical appointments or accompanied folks to the hospital emergency room where the physician was shadowed by someone carrying a fairly large laptop to do all the transcription and data entry needed to document the visit, but the nurses who took histories had their own laptops and entered their own data and comments or narratives. This kind of recording seems to be replacing the medical transcription services that in some cases were the intermediate stage between secretaries and the current on-site workers (whose titles I cannot recall — sorry). Now that the dictaphone has been superseded by the laptop, I would not be surprised to see corporate medical firms working with AI voice recognition to replace the silent workers who are following ER physicians around.

  27. Matt said,

    October 1, 2021 @ 11:43 pm

    I will add my name to the list of people who have never seen or heard “keyboarding” in any context prior to reading this thread.

    I took high school computer/IT subjects in the late nineties, computer science at University through the early 2000s, and have been working with teams of coders ever since.

    I have not encountered a single person who would use any term other than “type” for what you do with a keyboard… and I am pretty sure they would look at you very weirdly if you said “keyboarding” (but the meaning would be pretty clear).

    So whatever caused the trend, i don’t think it spread to Australia.

  28. JPL said,

    October 2, 2021 @ 12:19 am

    Sorry, so is it the case that the replacement of "typing" by "keyboarding" is restricted to the cases involving the nominalization of a verbal form (e.g., not involving cases like: A: "What's that guy's role here?" B: "He keyboards all the manuscripts." or A: What have you been doing all day?" B: "I've been keyboarding my paper.", etc.), and occurrence of the form "keyboarding" only in nominal contexts, or does it involve the lexemes 'type' and 'keyboard' in all their forms and contexts of use? Which lexeme would the befuddled twenty year old use to refer to the activity of writing type, expressing it as as the dynamic element of a proposition subject to aspectual and tense modification, using verbal forms, such as the above or some of the examples in my previous comment? If the nominalized form is the innovation, its spread to verbal forms could be described as back-formation. Is the phenomenon restricted to the term for an educational program and profession, or should we expect the one to shove out the other in other contexts as well? If it's the former, then the question, "When did the word "keyboarding" enter the language, and "typing" drop out?" would seem to be overly broad.

  29. Chips Mackinolty said,

    October 2, 2021 @ 1:49 am

    Then again there was the Telex machine–remember them? I learnt to use one in the early 1980s in remote Katherine, Northern Territory of Australian. One definitely typed on a keyboard, the machine then produced a punch holed strip of paper that you would then feed into another part of the machine–transferred to some distant place, punched again and printed out as a "typed" document.

    It was something that definitely had to be done sober. One Friday evening I kept feeding the tape upside down, which chewed it up.

  30. Philip Taylor said,

    October 2, 2021 @ 6:58 am

    [OT, "manageress"]. Andrew — "Also, 'manageress' is not a word and never has been (it feels awkward to even say in either possible pronunciation); English, unlike some other languages, does not innovate unnecessary gendered terms". "Manageress" may not be a word in your idiolect, or even in your topolect, but it is most certainly a word in the English language :

    manageress, n.

    Brit. /ˌmanᵻdʒəˈrɛs/, /ˈmanᵻdʒərᵻs/, U.S. /ˈmænɪdʒ(ə)rəs/
    Frequency (in current use): 3/8
    Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: manager n., -ess suffix.
    Etymology: < manager n. + –ess suffix.
    N.E.D. (1904) gives the pronunciation as (mæ·nėdʒərės) /ˈmænᵻdʒərᵻs/.

    A female manager (chiefly in sense of manager n. 4a, which is now often preferred as not gender-specific).

    1755 C. Charke Narr. Life 133 Unfortunately, the Manageress's Husband..was under sentence of Transportation at Newgate.
    1797 A. M. Bennett Beggar Girl I. ii. 33 The lady manageress' benefit had been stuck up at every door in the parish.
    1819 W. Scott Let. 23 Aug. (1933) V. 475 A play of Joanna Baillies which she has sent to Mrs. Siddons (our manageress).
    1885 M. E. Braddon Wyllard's Weird III. 81 Mdlle. Duprez..was known and welcomed with friendliest greeting by manageress and head waiter.
    1925 S. Lewis Arrowsmith xxxiii. 364 The bulging-eyed manageress peered from a window before she would admit them.
    1968 Punch 12 June 853/1 Animals not allowed, said the hatchet manageress.
    1992 DJ 26 Nov. 48/2 Drop in at the club, check messages, gen up on any developments with my manageress, Jackie.

    The word forms an normal, everday part of my lexicon.

    [OT, "telex"]. Chips. I did my apprenticeship (1963–1966) with the GPO on telex machines. In general, they did not produce punched tape, but were directly connected to the (telex) exchange. The device that produced punched (5-unit) tape was a perforator. But I full concur about the need to be stone-cold sober. One lunchtime I went out for a drink with the lads, and when I got back my boss (Bunny Morgan) asked me to record the telex numbers of all of the overseas administrations with which we (at Electra House) were in contact. When I handed him the list, he told me in no uncertain terms that it was completely useless — almost every time that a zero occurred in the number, I had typed two or more zeros ! See for more on both, and many other items of equipment on which I was trained, many of which are now in the Porthcurno telegraph museum about an hour and a half's drive from my home in Cornwall.

  31. Peter Taylor said,

    October 2, 2021 @ 7:07 am

    Femme d'Afrique's comment

    In my country what really gets me is the term “Lady Justice” to refer to female judges, as though the default for a Supreme/Appellate Court judge is male.

    raises a question as to whether there's a true asymmetry there or whether it's a saliency illusion. In the British system, judges of the Court of Appeal are respectively Lord Justice or Lady Justice, so while there's differentiation it's symmetric. I wonder whether the unspecified country in question actually has the same symmetric differentiation.

  32. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 2, 2021 @ 10:35 am

    I first came across "keyboarding" as a thing my daughters' teachers said they were being taught in elementary school, maybe circa 2008 for the older one. I can't say I've heard it much at all outside of that educationist-jargon setting. The striking thing to me is that they were being taught to "touch-type" at a much younger age than I was — I was in 10th grade (1980-81), and we learned on IBM Selectrics. Actually, my high school offered two different intro typing classes – a semester-long "typing for college-bound kids who want to be able to type their own papers"* one and a year-long "typing for kids who aren't planning to go to college but hope to get clerical jobs straight out of high school." Due to a schedule conflict, I ended up taking the latter, in which I think I was one of only two boys in the class. But me and the other dude tried to spin that as a potential social advantage rather than as an embarrassment.

    *It was a probably a smaller percentage than it had once been, but back in the Eighties there were still American college students who couldn't type at all and paid other people (sometimes fellow students, sometimes outside services) to type up their work for them.

  33. Rachael Churchill said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 2:34 am

    I've never heard "keyboarding" and would have assumed it related to music keyboards. (UK, late 30s, parent of a child at secondary school and one at primary school.)

    I'm also surprised at the… un-cosmopolitan-ness?… of the Ask A Manager respondent in assuming "manageress" is intended as a joke coming from an otherwise model employee, rather than a culture clash. I'm imagining the poor guy being absolutely mortified to learn that his misguided attempt at respect was taken as a silly joke or worse. (Also, as a data point for the people disputing that "manageress" is a word, my phone keyboard successfully autocompleted it.)

  34. djw said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 3:35 am

    I first remember hearing "keyboarding" as a class in–if memory serves–Texas middle schools in the late 80s/early 90s.

    I taught at university level into the 2010s, and I don't remember hearing my students say they were going to "type" or "keyboard" their papers; they were just going to *write* them. In my college days, I wrote out papers by hand that I later either typed up myself or hired someone to type for me; my students skipped the longhand step, so the "writing" and "typing" parts were they same, and they didn't need a word for "typing" or "keyboarding." "Keyboarding" was just the class that taught them what I had learned as touch typing on a qwerty keyboard–on a typewriter.

  35. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 9:37 am

    @ J.W. Brewer: “ back in the Eighties there were still American college students who couldn't type at all and paid other people (sometimes fellow students, sometimes outside services) to type up their work for them.”

    Taking typing class was one of THE smartest things I ever did, as I made much money typing other students’ papers. (My 1st year at Uni was 1987-1988.)

    My HS taught it in one semester. 1st quarter (half semester) was on manual behemoths, which the 2nd was on the IBM Selectrics.

    Those who not Uni-bound and were expecting clerical jobs went starting in 10th grade to our county’s JVS (Joint Vocational School), which was later labeled the CCC (County Career Center), and took more than just typing.

  36. Batchman said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 12:07 pm

    1. What is the proper word for a male seamstress?

    2. There are areas in which keyboarding, or even using the keyboard noun, can be ambiguous. For example, as a musician who both plays piano and uses music composition software, I could say that I made an MP3 music file via the keyboard, but that could mean either thing without further clarification.

    3. We don't create type at the computer keyboard; we create text, and that text may be in a particular font. The term "type" in computing generally refers to one of two things:

    a. the attribute of a file that determines what application processes it (often determined by the last segment of the file's name, or extension).

    b. an attribute of a variable in programming that determines what form of data it can hold and what operations can be performed upon it.

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 2:41 pm

    @Batchman, the original OED (don't have immediate access to a more up-to-date edition) has "seamster" as a male equivalent to seamstress, with a note that of course way back in Old English the agentive suffix -ster was itself marked as female but that the subsequent emergence of "seamstress" then somehow made "seamster" available for a male who did the same thing. "Seamster" as an actual occupational title (rather than frozen into a surname) seems extremely rare these days and some of the recent uses I found via googling seem like they might be intended as jocular. On the other hand, a 2007 book titled "Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads into Street Couture" might signal the path to a revival, as I suspect the intended audience for the book is primarily female but the sort of young females who might be rubbed the wrong way by old-fashioned gendered terms like "seamstress" and thus be looking for what seems like a less gendered alternative.

  38. Andrew Usher said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 6:01 pm

    Isn't the bigger archaism that people would think they needed to take a class to type? That's the strange thing to me; but one could say that those working with computers have never believed that, and nowadays we all 'work with computers'.

  39. Josh R. said,

    October 3, 2021 @ 7:47 pm

    I feel like my high school typing classes marked a transition point. In Typing I, Fall of 1993, the class was taught by an older gentleman, and we all used electric typewriters. In Typing II, Spring of 1994, we used spiffy new Macintoshes (probably the Macintosh Classic, which was pretty inexpensive at the time).

    Andrew Usher asked:
    "Isn't the bigger archaism that people would think they needed to take a class to type?"

    I'm not sure anyone ever thought they "needed" to take a class to type. But taking 50 minutes out of my school day to just chill and practice blind-typing from the home row? That was a pretty attractive option for a 15 year old.

  40. maidhc said,

    October 4, 2021 @ 2:51 am

    Up until the 1960s or so, typing was seen as women's work. So computer programmers, who were assumed to be all men (not so, really), wrote their programs by hand on a "coding pad" (formatted sheets of paper), which was then given to a keypunch operator, who would "key in" the program (type it on to punch cards). It wasn't called typing because it was assumed that typing would produce a paper document. Even though typing on a keypunch machine was much the same as typing on a typewriter.

    The failure of the The Mother of All Demos to have an immediate impact probably had a ot to do with the assumption that document preparation was women's work. So a mindblowing change to how text was processed was not important to serious people (i.e., men).

    The culture of computer programming changed with the advent of DEC, time-sharing, networking, UNIX and the like. It was assumed that programmers would type in their programs themselves, and the profession of keypunch operator faded away.

    It wasn't until the beginning of the Personal Computer Revolution that I ever heard the term "keyboarding", and it was mostly to do with K-12 education. Educators had been saying for a long time "our children must be computer-literate". But the meaning of "computer-literate" kept changing. In the period I'm talking about, it meant "our children must be able to enter a BASIC program into an Apple-II". Therefore, they must learn "keyboarding" rather than old-fashioned typing. I've never really heard the term much in any other context.

    Once schools devoted time to teaching children to write with a fountain pen. Now that children start typing in elementary school, do they still get taught to type?

    I was never taught to type. I acquired a typewriter some time in high school and typed my papers as best I could. Later in life, as a matter of self-improvement, I did a Teach Yourself Touch Typing course that I got from the public library. It was useful.

    I think that those old typing classes did give you information that people don't know any more, like how to format margins properly and how far to space in for a block quotation.

  41. Andreas Johansson said,

    October 4, 2021 @ 3:06 am

    Regarding Typing/Keyboarding class, the school I went to had one back in the day, but abolished it in the mid-'90s on the logic that typewriters were disappearing so there was no need for anyone to learn to touchtype anymore. Given I've got colleagues who still do the hunt and peck (or "index finger waltz" to translate the Swedish expression directly) after working with computers for decades, I think that was the wrong call.

    Barbara Philipps Long wrote:
    The word secretary has gone the way of the dodo in my experience. Now folks who have similar positions are called “admins.”

    At work, they're officially called admins, but everyone, themselves included, call them
    secretaries. OTOH, my wife's best friend works as one at another place in town, and there it's apparently a significant faux pas to say secretary.

  42. R. Fenwick said,

    October 4, 2021 @ 10:35 am

    @Andrew Usher: Also, 'manageress' is not a word and never has been (it feels awkward to even say in either possible pronunciation); English, unlike some other languages, does not innovate unnecessary gendered terms.

    Aviatrix begs to differ.

  43. Philip Taylor said,

    October 4, 2021 @ 12:06 pm

    Well, it all depends (of course) on how one chooses to define "unnecessary", but I would hazard a guess that all of the following might also beg to differ —

    Actress, barmaid, conductress, dominatrix, executrix, headmistress, heroine, hostess, landlady, policewoman, schoolmistress, stewardess, waitress.

  44. Andrew Usher said,

    October 5, 2021 @ 9:59 pm

    Even if I were to grant you all those, it would still be a short list compared to that of unquestionably non-gendered terms of the sort. The general rule is still clear.

    'Aviatrix' was surely a creation of the press. A large group are female counterparts to compounds in '-man' perceived as inherently male; those can hardly be judged unnecessary. Most others can be seen as special cases somehow.

  45. Philip Taylor said,

    October 6, 2021 @ 8:40 am

    On the basis of the OED's earliest citation of "aviatrix" (Glasgow Herald, 1927), you would appear to be correct, Andrew, but Google books finds an earlier (1923) instance in the Bulletin of the Pan American Union, Vol. LVI, January–June 1923

    LECTURE BY AN AVIATRIX.—Señorita Analia Villa de la Tapia, Bolivian aviatrix, […] discussed the history of aviation […].

  46. Bloix said,

    October 6, 2021 @ 2:09 pm

    Andrew Usher asked:
    "Isn't the bigger archaism that people would think they needed to take a class to type?"

    I take it you've never heard of touch typing.

    An ordinary secretary had to be able to type 40 words per minute at minimum without error. An executive secretary, at least 70 wpm. Medical and legal transcriptionists and typing pool typists, up to 100 wpm. To be hired, an applicant had to pass a test showing the ability to meet these speeds without looking at the keys and typing from both handwritten originals and from dictation machine tapes.

    There were no delete or backspace keys and no spell check. For formal documents and business correspondence, errors meant retyping whole pages and therefore the wpm speed meant without any errors at all.

    Tell me how a person could that without specialized training.

  47. Bloix said,

    October 6, 2021 @ 2:24 pm

    "Also, 'manageress' is not a word and never has been (it feels awkward to even say in either possible pronunciation)"

    You might spend 30 seconds running an ngram before making this sort of pronouncement. The Manageress appears to have been a standard position in theaters, with a fair degree of authority over actors and staff.

  48. Andrew Usher said,

    October 7, 2021 @ 8:02 am

    As the previous her poster seems to have an interest mainly in attacking me rather than substantive contribution, I feel no obligation to respond to all he wrote. I will, though, to the remark on touch-typing, as that may be of interest to others and is clearly on-topic.

    I of course am aware of 'touch-typing' (the word and the thing), and realise that some organised program (such as a class) is needed to learn it. But most people do not touch-type, and most people never have. My point about taking a class was the change from people seeing 'typing' as a specialised skill (that you wouldn't want to learn on your own) to something as universal as it is today, without formal classes (and therefore largely without touch-typing) being responsible.

    I will not dispute that typing tests of that nature were required for such positions, and have now desire to argue here whether they should have been. But for just typing usefully (i.e. superior to handwriting), touch-typing is not a necessity – typewriters started selling without it, and authors have typed ever since. All it takes is long enough use (practice), just like using the other kind of keyboard, or playing video games (which is probably what taught me I could use more than just my index fingers at the keyboard).

    I wouldn't be opposed to teaching typing in schools, though, not at all.

  49. Philip Anderson said,

    October 8, 2021 @ 5:49 pm

    Re keyboarding: I have never heard this term, and suspect it is less common in the UK.

    Manageress is fine with me, but for a woman managing a hotel, restaurant or theatre etc, jobs which women were allowed to do in pre-equality days. Someone who manages people has to be a manager. I assume the employee who refers to his manager as manageress is being passive-aggressive, unless he’s from abroad.

  50. Atario said,

    October 11, 2021 @ 12:12 am

    In my freshman year of high school, back in the mid-pleistocene, er, mid-1980s, there was both a "typing" class (which I took) and a "keyboarding" class (which I didn't). Presumably, the "keyboarding" class included things you don't do on typewriters, like navigation, the numeric keypad, function keys, etc. Equally presumably, there would have been less emphasis on word drills and output speed and such.

    Mind you, this was in a cultural backwater, relatively speaking, so it can't have been too great an innovation.

  51. Andrew Usher said,

    October 11, 2021 @ 7:54 am

    So it's your opinion that schools just didn't want to call it 'typing' if you weren't using a typewriter? And, thus, they invented a new term, 'keyboarding', that really didn't catch on.

    Even then it should have been clear that computers were going to replace typewriters at least for the kind of typing that really mattered in the world.

    Philip Anderson:
    Thanks for the clarification on 'manageress'. If it's used in that chiefly historical and British sense, I guess I could accept its legitimacy. But as you say, not as an all-purpose gendering of 'manager'. The word is still particularly ugly, and not just because the suffixes '-er' and '-ess' should not, grammatically, go together.

  52. Philip Taylor said,

    October 13, 2021 @ 2:54 pm

    "The word [manageress] is still particularly ugly, and not just because the suffixes '-er' and '-ess' should not, grammatically, go together". What, to your mind Andrew, makes "manageress" particularly ugly ? Is it any more ugly than, for example, "ambassadress", "benefactress", "coadjutress", "demigoddess", "millionairess", "prolocutress", "villageress", "warrioress", or any of the other 4-syllable female variants of otherwise-male nouns ?

  53. Andrew Usher said,

    October 13, 2021 @ 6:31 pm

    No, surely not; but 'particularly' does not imply 'uniquely'. And that list of other 'words' is no less problematic; being most or all practically unused. The last one is especially telling as the phrase 'female warrior' is not uncommon, but no one thinks to change it to 'warrioress'.

    You might wish that English were a language that regularly used gender-specific nouns for people, but it simply isn't and has not been for a very long time. I know you can't possibly use any of those words often. Yes, there are exceptions, some in specialised contexts, but the rule is still clear.

  54. Philip Taylor said,

    October 14, 2021 @ 3:20 am

    All fair comments. In reality, I use "manageress" as a matter of course, have used "ambassadress", "benefactress" and "millionairess" one or twice, and have never used any of the others. At the other end of the spectrum, I use "actress" all of the time, never speaking of a female who acts as an actor (at least in the "stage and screen" sense of the word), and at a time when I regularly rode on London 'buses would always speak of the "conductress" if appropriate. I don't know if women conduct orchestras (I assume that they do) but would refer to an orchestral conductor as a conductor regardless of sex. At school I never had a headmistress, only headmasters; these days I suspect that both are now called "head teachers" in the majority of establishments. Baroness Mary Warnock, CH DBE FBA was Mistress of Girton College Cambridge, while the Right Honourable Baroness Valerie Amos CH PC is Master of University College London.

RSS feed for comments on this post