Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Betcha Didn't Know...

Call me a nerd, but I find word origins pretty fascinating. At the Atkins Library UNC Charlotte while researching my juvenile novel that will take place in Charlotte, NC in 1951, I experienced two word origins “hands on.”
We all take the term “cut and paste” pretty much for granted. You double click on the correct icon with your mouse and you move text in less time than it took to write this sentence. Well, in the “olden days” that wasn’t quite so easy. Today I ran my hand over the surface of a Sanborn map that was first printed in 1929 and continually updated until 1952. These GIGANTIC maps (we’re talking the size of a small end table) were used by fire insurance companies to determine the degree of fire hazard associated with a particular property. They include such details as the construction of the buildings, type of roofs, and the size, shapes and types of the building. These are handy to get a picture of a town or city during a particular time period but also demonstrated this whole “cut and paste” principal. As buildings were added or changed, the map makers literally re-typed the information, cut it out, and pasted it onto the old map. At first glance, the surface of these maps looked smooth, but on closer inspection (and feeling) you could see where new information had been placed over the old. Pretty cool.

How about a horn book? Besides being the name of the magazine that every children’s author strives to get a positive review in, do you know what it is? ( I didn’t!) At Atkins, I saw one. The original hornbooks were smaller than a sheet of notebook paper and were made from metal with a wooden paddle for a child to hold. Often the “lesson sheet” was covered by cow's horn and held in place with a metal frame. The lesson sheet had the alphabet (both upper- and lowercase), at times included numerals 1-10, and the Lord's Prayer. The one at the Atkins Library is from the 18th century, appears to have little nails holding the horn on the wood, and displays the alphabet and then a few words or letter combinations at the bottom.

So, now you know!

1 comment:

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Isn't research fun!? Hope the novel is going well.