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Picture of Caterwauller
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What is the deal with the word "spindle"?

Why is that phrase always on standardized tests? Is a spindle a noun/thing? The dictionaries I see indicate that it is.

Reading further (look, Mom, I did my research!), I see that the verb form includes
quote:
1. transitive verb impale papers on spindle: to impale letters or bills on a spindle


Does this usage seem old-fashioned to anyone else? I don't recall every hearing it used in any other context than with official documents that will have to be machine-read.


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
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Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Spindle is one of those great words that has a whole bunch of meanings in different contexts. The two I am most familiar with are the stationary spindle (I can remember seeing them in offices in the '60s) and the spindle whorl (which I first learned in anthropology classes, along with the distaff). After looking at this Wikipedia disambiguation page (link), I was reminded of other uses, e.g., the part of a bicycle pedal and the spindle on a record player. I don't think the office device for impaling papers is in use anymore, at least in the States. The verb only occurs in the set phrase as you indicate, like the great "this page intentionally left blank".


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
Posts: 5085 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Caterwauller:
Does this usage seem old-fashioned to anyone else? I don't recall every hearing it used in any other context than with official documents that will have to be machine-read.

In the story of Sleeping Beauty, doesn't the princess "prick her finger on a spindle" and appear to die?

Wordmatic
 
Posts: 1390 | Location: Near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yes, the phrase was used on old-fashioned punched cards that had to be machine-read. As zmj says, a spindle was used in offices to hold stray pieces of paper, perhaps those that had been, or were about to be, dealt with by the clerk. A synonym would be "spike", so if someone impaled such a card (or folded or mutilated it for that matter) it meant that it could no longer be read by the machine. The use here is the verb form, from the noun.

I'd imagine Health and Safety Rules nowadays preclude the use of spindles. There must have been plenty of accidents when the user's hand was spindled instead of, or as well as, the paper!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
Posts: 10930 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
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There are restaurants that still use spindles to hold the checks (or bills, or tabs) after they've been paid.

quote:
There must have been plenty of accidents when the user's hand was spindled instead of, or as well as, the paper!

It happens in the the movies, at least.
 
Posts: 1245 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
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I used to work in a bank, and for some of the time worked on the counter as a cashier (teller). When people came in with a list of change needed we'd put the list on a spindle after serving them. If the till differed at the end of the day we'd look through the bits of paper to see if there were any errors in addition that could have caused the difference. Although I never spindled myself, or heard of it happening, I came close several times!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
Posts: 10930 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
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At my first newspaper job, it was my assignment to come in every day at 5:30 a.m. and spike the overnight wire copy. The teletype machines would have been running all night, and no one would have been there to rip the copy off the machines (as they were in the daytime.) There would be yards and yards of news stories all on long sheets of paper, piled up all over the floor around the machines.

There was a steel bar on the countertop with five, 5-inch spikes sticking up from it at 5 inch intervals. I would rip each story from the long sheet using a pica ruler, fold it, and spike it, using the spikes to sort the copy: one for international news, one for national, one for local, another for regional and the last for sports. Once it was all done, I delivered the different stacks to the appropriate editors. Now that was grunt work!

In the composing room, the typesetters would spike the copy after they had set the type for it. To "spike a story" also meant to cut it from that day's newspaper.

Never once did I hear anybody in the newsroom refer to the spikes as spindles, but I suppose they were. Somehow, because of Sleeping Beauty, I always thought a spindle was something to do with spinning. And I found another entry that associates the word with computing and other technology as an axis.
Wordmatic
 
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