6/08/2018

Carbon Copy


A young dad was carrying his toddler in the mall. The kid looked at me and waved.

I chirped, “You are a carbon copy of your dad!”

The dad looked at me as though I was some kind of a con artist. Or worse, an evil spirit.

Moon’s ago, carbon copy was grace beyond excitement for parents. I believe it's always a compliment for moms and dads to have an offspring looking exactly like them.

If you are a young dad or mom reading this, I might have already lost you (as I did when I narrated the same story to my Business Communications class). So let me explain.

The term carbon copy is derived from carbon paper, which was used to make copies of typewritten documents. Naturally this term predates photocopiers.

Carbon is a thin paper coated with a mixture of black wax and pigment. It was first called carbonated paper by its inventor Ralph Wedgwood in 1806. When people typed a document and needed an exact copy, they took two sheets of paper and put the carbon paper between them.
So when they typed the document, it was copied onto the paper under the carbon paper. If they needed more copies, naturally they used more carbon papers.

A carbon copy is referred to as cc. Yes, that same cc you see in emails. If you typed in an addresses on the line of cc, that same email sent to the primary recipient (To) will also be sent to that secondary email addy.

How about the bcc? It stands for blind carbon copy. It allows the sender to direct a copy to another address but is hidden from the primary recipient.

Carbon copy therefore means one is the spitting image of the other. If that isn’t understood today, I understand. Maybe I should have said to the baby in the mall, “You are a photocopy of your dad.” I’d have received a smile instead of a scowl.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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