Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

Credit: Dot Wordsworth

In the search for the remains of flight MH370, a pulse signal was detected beneath the ocean. The BBC called it a 'ping', in inverted commas on its website and with the spoken equivalent in broadcasts, as if ping were too demotic to be used with due respect.

Ping seems joky only because its origin is imitative. In naval slang, the operator of an Asdic echo-sounder in the second world war was known as a ping-man or ping-jockey (by analogy with disc-jockey , first heard in 1941). Asdic is an acronym coined in 1939 from 'Allied submarine detection investigation committee'. (The word acronym appeared in English in 1940 to mean a word made up of named initials, such as TLS , and from about 1943 with the slightly different meaning of a word composed of initials and pronounced as spelt, such as Nato or Radar . So in 1939 no one would have called Asdic an acronym .)

The Asdic went ping when an object showed up. The so-called black boxes of aircraft send out radio signals (not sound signals) that register as pings. A machine called a 'towed pinger locator', shaped like a ray fish, can with luck detect them under the sea. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.