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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 47, November 19, 2006, Article 29

NUMISMATIC TERMS MISUSED IN THE MANISTREAM PRESS

Dick Johnson writes: "My local newspaper does not know the difference
between "die" and "dye." It is a newspaper from Waterbury, the largest
city between Danbury and Hartford, and the closest to us here in the
gentle rolling hills in the northwest corner of Connecticut. I mention
Waterbury because it is important to the "die" versus "dye" spelling
confusion.

It was in Waterbury that the two words had to be distinguished from
each other. It probably occurred at Scovill Manufacturing Company after
the Civil War. This firm was active in the early manufacturing of
photographic equipment and supplies (even predating Kodak). One of
those supplies was daguerreotype cases to house the prints with an
image deposited on thin strip of metal the firm also supplied.

Daguerreotype cases are made of a composition material (gutta-percha)
that had to be colored and shaped into a fancy design form. With both
processes going on in the same plant at the same time they needed to
distinguish the "dye" -- meaning to color the material -- from the
"die" the tool to form the design.

The first time I read in the Waterbury paper the misuse of "dye" for
"die" I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published. I said it
is easy for your writers and proofreaders to remember: "A dye changes
the color of something, a die changes the form."

It didnít do any good. Months later the same "dye" misspelling
occurred. They will never learn.

Now, in the Sunday, November 19, 2006 Waterbury paper there is an
article about unearthing artifacts in Vatican City. The illustration
accompanying the article showed one of the artifacts. It called it
an "engraving." It was not. It was a relief, or what sculptors call
"bas-relief." If it was cut to shape, this is called "carving,"
not "engraving." If it was made in a mold this was made by "modeling"
not engraving.

Engraving is the cutting of incised lines or cavities, incised lines
on a metal plate like for printing paper money, or cavities in a piece
of metal like dies for striking coins and medals.

I bring these terms to notice for numismatic readers because we should
use the correct terms (notwithstanding what we may read elsewhere).
Fuzzy spelling leads to fuzzy words leads to fuzzy thinking. There is
an elation in using a correct term in speech and writing. I for one
endorse purity in the words numismatists use. Will you join me in
this endorsement?"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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