The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Short titles of US legislation - everything you wanted to know...

A gem of an article comes my way (serendipity again) - useful, charming, funny. And doing work that I'd not have the facilities, expertise or patience to do.

Mary Whisner's What’s in a Statute Name? is stuffed full of plums: for instance (p5a), the Sherman Act - the antitrust act, not the silver one - wasn't written by Senator John Sherman at all, but by Sen George Hoar (MA). Interesting enough; but Whisner indulges herself (and her readers) with a footnote:
Peabody’s Improbable History [a segment on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show] featured a genius dog named Mr. Peabody who had a pet boy named Sherman; Sherman and Peabody used Peabody’s ‘WABAC machine’ (pronounced ‘way-back’) to go back in time to discover the real story behind historical events.” WIKIPEDIA, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, at (last modified Sept. 23, 2004). OK, I didn’t really think that Sherman could have traveled back to the time of the Sherman Act and had the statute named after him. But wouldn’t it have been a good explanation of why the name didn’t become widespread immediately?

Librarian humour!

So that's the origin of the name Wayback Machine, the essential back-up search tool, is it? Cursory search fails to nail the etymology down - it could have been deliberate, or subconscious, or just be ben trovato. The engine's own site doesn't highlight the derivation. (Whisner wisely doesn't venture down the Wayback Machine path at all.)

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