One of my favorite games is called Origins. It’s a trivia game about the origins of customs, cliches, inventions, words and superstitions. Why do we say “break a leg” to wish someone good luck? Or why might we say someone is “mad as a hatter”?
Mental Floss had a post the other day on the origin of the term “boilerplate” as a unit of writing that can be reused over and over without change, often in contracts or computer code.
In dem der olden deys, steam boilers were built from very heavy tough steel sheets. Similar sheets of steel were also used for engraving copy that was intended for widespread reproduction in multiple issues of newspapers–things like ads and syndicated columns. Regular, here today, gone tomorrow copy was set in much softer, durable lead.
Since no source was given, I checked it against the Oxford English Dictionary to see if the etymology was legit and it seems likely. Here’s what appears as an added entry for “boiler”
1860 W. FORDYCE Hist. Coal, &c. 112 Various descriptions of Iron, such as nail-rods, *boiler-plates, hoop and sheet iron. 1875 URE Dict. Arts I. 410 The average resistance of boiler plates is reckoned at 20 tons to the square inch. 1893 Congress. Rec. Aug. 465/1 The country weeklies have been sent tons of ‘boiler plates’ accompanied by..letters asking the editors to use the matter as news. 1905 D. G. PHILLIPS Plum Tree 190 He attended to the subsidizing of news agencies that supplied thousands of country papers with boiler-plate matter to fill their inside pages.