October 18th, 2006


Old junk

Nother antique technology metaphor, with meaning lost but remaining obvious: clean slate. Stuff blackboards are no longer made of. Of course the slate to be cleaned was one's own: "you wrote on my slate I love you, Joe/ When we were a couple of kids".

Older variant was a horn book: how did it work? Slab of softened and flattened horn inserted in frame. Stylus pressed down made marks against dark background. Like those Magic SLates -- what were they called? -- where the marks on soft dark underneath show up when outer clear plastic is indited. (KJust guessing). It too now gone, maybe, and good for metaphoric uses, closer to us than slates or hornbooks.

A suggestion from a linguistics lecture my daughter attended: bottom line. In old accounting books, the balance of Debit (red) and Credit (black) -- right?

What is a Hornbook?

So rather than wait for my diligent Friends to tell me I'm wrong (which they learn with a glimpse at Wikipedia or some other source they have at their fingertips) I instantly correct myself on "hornbook"  Here is a nice brief account from http://www.cedu.niu.edu/blackwell/books.html --

"It may not look like one, but a hornbook is really a book. Paper was pretty expensive once and hornbooks were made so children could learn to read without using a lot of paper. A hornbook was usually a small, wooden paddle with just one sheet of paper glued to it. But because that paper was so expensive, parents and teachers wanted to protect it. So they covered the paper with a very thin piece of cow's horn. The piece of cow's horn was so thin, you could see right through it. That's why these odd books were called "hornbooks.""

Doh.  Not for writng, only reading