Sharpening the quills
Some weeks ago, here at the paragraph factory, we got around to consolidating the staff in the main part of the newsroom. That meant that we wound up with a surplus of office equipment and supplies left over from the series of staff reductions over the past few years.
There was a certain amount of salvage. I collected three cartons of surplus dictionaries, some of them several years old but still serviceable, to donate to Glennor Shirley, the Maryland prison librarian, who says that inmates find them particularly useful.
But not everything was salvageable. I noticed a group of Rolodexes left forlornly on a counter for weeks. No one claimed them. No one wanted them. Many people in the newsroom keep telephone numbers and addresses in electronic files, which are easier to update and share.
So when an article arrived on the copy desk with a reference to a public figure who was going to have an opportunity to add to his “Rolodex of donors,” I wondered: Does he also give his staff mimeographed lists of donors? Do his secretaries type up stencils to run the fundraising letters through the Addressograph?
It is not just that adding donor names to the Rolodex is a cliche—though it certainly is that—but that it is a cliche that has come to look so dated.
I wonder what you see that conveys that sense that a writer has gone on automatic pilot and lost track of the era. If you see similar references to outdated vocabulary, please share.
And if you want to say, “Hey! I still use a Rolodex, and I don’t appreciate your smartass attitude,” well, the comments are open to you, too.