Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Today at work one of my Japanese coworkers printed out some documents and attempted to staple them together. However, on this day the stapler happened to be empty. My coworker then goes off on some Japanese soliloquy of frustration which feels like an hourly event. Regardless, during the span I repeatedly hear her say the word 'Hotchkiss' ('Hottchikisu' if you want to throw in some accent) and I wonder what in the world is she talking about?

So I interject with this question and I'm told that Hotchkiss means stapler in Japanese (in Korean too apparently). All I can manage to respond with is, "huh???" I've thus far heard lots of different ridiculous 'English' words in Japanese with equally ridiculous meanings (Viking meaning buffet is one example) but today I chose to battle with the Japanese etymology of their term for the stapler.

A reasonable person might question the strange name and figure that perhaps the origin comes from the original inventor of the stapler thus resolving any need to discuss the matter further. This notion momentarily crossed my mind, however, it's a stapler, give me a break, it binds things together at single points, why would anyone want to name something like that after themselves? And why would anyone agree to call something like that after it's creator? That's like someone digging a hole in the ground, filling it with water, and telling everyone that it's called a Johnson--"Hey everybody want to go swimming in my Johnson this afternoon?" No, it's a hole filled with water, otherwise known as a pool of water, or what we commonly refer to as simply a pool. Likewise, a stapler simply staples objects together and is most definitely not a Hotchkiss.

So I go and check wikipedia for information regarding the matter. My thoughts are confirmed when I find out that while someone named Hotchkiss did infact exist, he had nothing at all to do with the 'invention' of the stapler. It's apparently commonly believed that someone named Hotchkiss invented the stapler and thereby imbued their named to the stapler. However, this is in fact a complete myth. Hotchkiss evidently comes from a man with the same name who invented a 'revolving cannon' or what seems to be like a 'gatling cannon' whose name was later imparted on the Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun. What does this have to do with anything? Nothing that can be explained by me, maybe the Japanese think the revolving cannon looks like a stapler? Maybe the Japanese think the way staples are fed into a stapler looks like the way the Hotchkiss machine gun is fed bullets?

Whatever the case, calling a stapler a Hotchkiss seems pretty ridiculous now. Thankfully, I'm told that Japanese people are starting to use the term stapler, or sutepura, more frequently now.

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