mimeograph

Both a noun and a verb.

(unlike "carob" which I think you'll agree is just plain nasty — and really, not to go off on a tangent here only six words into a node, but... Carob... I mean why? Was chocolate just too tasty? Did we really need to invent this stuff? This substance is a cruel joke — seemingly with a halflife of "forever" — the bulk of which now sits idly in cylindrical cardboard bins in bulk foods sections across the USA — just taking up space like so many bottles of "Clamato". Honestly, have you ever heard anyone say something akin to "Man, I got a hankerin' for some carob." or "Peter, this is wonderful; the wine, the music, this beautiful sunset... and, yes, a thousand times yes, of course I will marry you... (pause) ...but I just can't help thinking that one thing keeps this moment from being absolutely perfect... (said through appearing tears) ...our lack of carob.")

Examples of use of the word 'mimeograph' in both noun and verb forms are listed below for your edification (as well as for the edification of others — except for that mean kid from 3rd grade; screw him, let him go without):

It's just that easy!

The predecessor to the affordable copier, the mimeograph is what most of my public schools had for making copies. (Of course, once I got to high school we had that one huge WOPR from WarGames copier in the main office — "How about 200 copies of that trig final, Dr. Falken?")

The mimeograph was (and I suppose still "is" — albeit it, on some page of eBay less visited than than the Troubleshooting Forum of the Glidden Paint Web Site) roughly the size of one of those cardboard boxes that printer paper comes in (you know, those ones that weigh a ton when full of those wrapped reams of paper, but when empty are great for when your landlord discovers that you do indeed have a pet and you gotta leave your apartment a'la Bill Bixby at the end of every Incredible Hulk).

The mimeograph machine had roughly three main parts:

  • the body — basically the "base" (in fact, one might wonder why I didn't just say "the base" instead "the body" with this almost hauntingly beautiful explanation...)
  • a big cylindrical roller thing a bit larger than a large can of Yuban (my sister's favorite) or Folgers (my older brother's favorite)
  • a big crank on the side to make the thing do it's magic — that's right, this baby was as analog as they come, think "Gutenberg Press, the Home Game". Man, so few years ago, but can you imagine something like this coming out now? The sales person at the office supply store standing there try to earn his spiff saying, "uh yeah... well, sure ya gotta actually turn the crank yourself, but..."

Now, I never actually operated one of these machines myself, but it seems that if someone wanted to copy something — and let me say, this was strictly for text and line art, I don't think it could do photographs, at least not well, so put away the Farrah Fawcett poster — you had to write it on this special paper — almost like carbon paper, if memory serves.

This thin inky paper would then be wrapped ever-so-gently onto the roller and fastened down somehow — I'm going to go out on a big limb here and say "molly bolts". As you then turned the crank clockwise, the paper would be drawn sheet by sheet into the right side of the device (where it would feed under the roller — much like that unfortunate Thugee guard in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which would play on screens some three years later). Through the magic of, I don't know, love? (which, if my sources have it correct is "just like a magic penny") or perhaps something a bit more like silk-screening, the paper would come out the left side warm and inked with whatever the teacher wanted us to mess about with that day ("I'll take 'Conestoga wagons of the Oregon Trail' for $200, Art!").

Okay, hmm... the copies always were warm — I remember because we used to press the fresh copies to our cheeks on wintery mornings — so unless the roller contained a live hen or some sort of radioactive substance — or perhaps both! — this must have required electricity of some sort (since we never actually caught Miss Moore rubbing balloons on her sweater, I've ruled out static electricity) to warm the ink (or perhaps just the cockles of my heart).

In addition to the copies being warm, they had purple ink the likes of which you just don't see anymore — no trust me, I don't care if you do work at Kinkos, you ain't seem nothing like this stuff — and then there was the smell. It had that weird kind of odor like gasoline where at first if you just get the slightest whiff it smells kinda good, but if you smell too much of it you get a bit of a headache. As our teacher would walk among the desks laying the papers upon our desks, we would all pick them up and smell them deeply — if the room was quiet enough you could probably hear the "pink, pink, pink" timpani of brain cells being wiped out in droves.

To this day the mimeograph smell is still implanted deeply in the "public education" section of my brain — which is located right between the sections remembering "facts about nickels" and "the scariest spider I ever saw" (to quote a turtle: "...that was one big, ugly bear!"). The mimeograph is gone now, but the scent, while not in the same "mmm mmm good" category as mint scented (flavored?) paste, Play-Doh, and Crayola crayons, remains.

And now it's time for
"strawberry's extree-special movie connection section"
— chock full of shredded lettuce goodness!

The inky test thing that is fished out of the dumpster in the 1978 Universal Pictures movie Animal House would be an example of the messy, silk-screen kind of thing you had to use as a "master" on the mimeograph.

Mim"e*o*graph (?), n. [Gr. to imitate + -graph.]

An autographic stencil copying device invented by Edison.

 

© Webster 1913.

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