or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chop Chop

A Reuters news story on CNN.com about hidden messages during the Second World War--I'm not sure why exactly this qualifies as news--contains the following paragraph:

Codes were hidden in sheet music, descriptions of chess moves and shorthand symbols disguised as normal handwriting. Postcards were spliced in half, stuffed with wafer-thin notes and resealed.

"Splice" doesn't mean "to split in two". It means "to join two things at the ends". You can't splice something in half.

Now, the OED, I will note in all fairness, says that "splice" comes from Dutch "splissen" (this, I expect, would be the nautical sense of splicing two pieces of rope by intertwining their unravelled ends: we took a lot of seafaring words from the Dutch) and that this just might have come from the word which gave "split" to English. But the OED also makes it clear that, whatever connection might have existed between "split" and "splice", the usage of "splice" to mean "split" was rare when it was used, and obsolete now: their only citation is from 1664.

So: "spliced in half"? Wrong. "Split down the middle, stuffed with wafer-thin notes, and spliced back together"? Maybe.


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