Posted by: Jack Henry | March 15, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Ditto

The other night, my husband Ray and I were playing Pokémon and we were talking about a character named Ditto. The next thing I knew, Ray was doing his version of talking to Siri and asked, “Okay, Kara. Where does the word ditto come from?”

I didn’t know the answer, so sue me! I had to look it up, but boy did I find some fun information, and I took a walk down memory lane.

First, the definition from

· ditto [dit-oh] /ˈdɪt oʊ/


1. the aforesaid; the above; the same (used in accounts, lists, etc., to avoid repetition). Symbol: ″.

Abbreviation: do.

2. another of the same.

3. Informal. a duplicate; copy.


4. as already stated; likewise.

verb (used with object), dittoed, dittoing.

5. to make a copy of, using a Ditto machine.

6. to duplicate or repeat the action or statement of (another person).

· ditto marks (noun)

1. Often, ditto marks. two small marks (″) indicating the repetition of something, usually placed beneath the thing repeated.

Second, the etymology from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1620s, Tuscan dialectal ditto "(in) the said (month or year)," literary Italian detto, past participle of dire "to say," from Latin dicere (see diction). Originally used in Italian to avoid repetition of month names in a series of dates; generalized meaning of "same as above" first recorded in English 1670s.

And lastly, for some of us non-Millennials, the Ditto machine, also known as the spirit duplicator, from Wikipedia:

A spirit duplicator (also referred to as a Ditto machine in North America, Banda machine in the UK or Roneo in France and Australia) was a printing method invented in 1923 by Wilhelm Ritzerfeld and commonly used for much of the rest of the 20th century. The term "spirit duplicator" refers to the alcohols which were a major component of the solvents used as "inks" in these machines. The device coexisted alongside the mimeograph.

Spirit duplicators were used mainly by schools, churches, clubs, and other small organizations, such as in the production of fanzines, because of the limited number of copies one could make from an original, along with the low cost and correspondingly low quality of copying.

Here are a couple of photos of the machines and the dittos made from them. Remember the purple color and the smell of freshly dittoed papers?

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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