Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Firearms: The Unversal Measurement (Plus, A Find)

In a BBC article about the QWERTY keyboard* (and surprisingly accurate it is, too; good ol' Auntie), we encounter this paragraph:
In the USA in the post civil war era, standardisation became all. [...] A .22 bullet had to fit any .22 rifle in the world. A typist had to fit any typewriter.
[Emphasis mine] Yes, the UK, that place where aunties of every stripe have been trying to denormalize firearms for a loooong time. How's that workin', then?

Wonderfully enough -- how's this for "meta?" -- the article's inspired by brilliant comedian Stephen Fry's BBC Radio 4 series, Fry's English Delight; I went looking for more information -- c'mon, we're talking Stephen Fry here -- and the very first episode I found is all about the foolishness of trying to control language.

This sort of thing is not to everyone's taste; but if you like reading Henry Louis Mencken, if you liked James J. Kilpatrick's Court of Peeves, Crochets and Irks and The Writer's Art column and books, or if you enjoy This American Life,† you might want give it a listen.

PS: Eggcorns! Egad.
* Slave to habit, I had originally typed "QUERTY." What? U always follows Q!
† "...[A] documentary show for people who normally hate documentaries. A public radio show for people who don't necessarily care for public radio." And for two seasons, the best thing Showtime ever made you pay to watch.


jetfxr69 said...

Excuse me ma'am, but I've never seen a "QUERTY" keyboard. I see double where you've got single...

Drang said...

And there I thought you were speaking of yet another new keyboard, not quite as radically different as the Dvorak.

Borepatch said...

What's pretty astonishing is how late it was before "standard" screw threading came on to the scene.

I know I have a reference book to spills the beans on this; will have to dig it up.

Same thing with lubricating oil. The standards came late, late, late. Not sure that there's a definitive history on the subject, even today.

And back at State U, we did all kinds of work with Steam Tables. The data was collected and tabularized before there was really a theory of Thermodynamics. The theory probably wouldn't have been possible without the tables.

And so I;d (gently) suggest that standardization, while indeed an American invention (perhaps THE American invention) was surprisingly late.

Roberta X said...

Borepatch: and which "standard" thread, at even the home-shop level? All we have to put up with is NC and NF (and offspring), plus the fine threads found on firearms. The poor Brits loved standards so much, they got 5 or 6 of them, though you can stumble through with Whitworth, B.A. and metric....

(Gee, we haven't even touched on Acme, Pillar or Buttress thread profiles, or howcome 2BA and 10-32 are twin sons of different mothers).

jed said...

My only claim to linguistic fame is that Kilpatrick once used a letter from me in his column. He even agreed with me.

Speaking of threads, I need any sort of screw or bolt in 7mm-.5P. The local hardware that carries almost everything under the sun has cap screws in 6mm and 8mm. I've been advised to try a motorcycle shop, and directed to a web merchant that sells taps and dies in that size, but not screws, or round stock.

And, let's not forget about NPT.

As we say in the world if computing, the great thing about standards is there's so many of 'em to choose from!

Roberta X said...

M7 x 0.5? ...Dood. So fine! My usual suspects don't turn up anything. M7 x 1, no problem, McMaster-Carr or Fastenal will set you right up. Befriend a machinist?

jed said...

I'll check those folks out. Thanks.

Yeah, I know a couple machinists. This little project might in fact need one. And some of that low-temp solder you mentioned a while back.

jed said...

Oh, I see I mis-read. Well, I didn't get the sort of wake-up you benefited from this AM. :)

Roberta X said...

Tix solder -- be sure to use their flux, too.

I was coming up empty on M7 x 0.5. It may be something an imported-motorcycle shop would have but that's not a common pitch.

jed said...

No indeed, not common at all. Micromark will be getting an order soon, I think. And the anti-flux could be useful as well.

Thanks, again, Ms. X.

jed said...

And James Kilpatrick passed away Sunday night. Too bad. He wrote a great column. I'm not aware of anyone up-and-coming to take his place either, so we can expect English usage in the U.S. to continue to deteriorate (not that there was any hope on that front anyway).