On Carbon Copies: An Error Replicated?
Peter J. Yearwood, September 2009
Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.
To the Editor:
AHA’s president (Perspectives on History, May 2009), and Wikipedia, are surely wrong about the meaning of “cc”. Plurals of abbreviations used to be formed by duplication. Some of these still survive, egg: pp, ff, nn, MSS. The abbreviation of “copy” is “c”, and that of “copies” is therefore “cc”. Unfortunately secretaries have for a very long time been using “cc” indiscriminately, and no amount of instruction can get them to revert to correct usage. Folk etymology then kicked in to provide “carbon copy” as the expanded form of “cc”. This is surely something which historians should get right.
—Peter J. Yearwood
University of Papua New Guinea
Editor’s Note: That is an interesting interpretation. However, it is worth noting that the Oxford English Dictionary, perhaps the dictionary of resort for historians, cites only “carbon copy,” as the expansion for c.c., dating the first use of the abbreviation to 1936, in a handbook for secretaries.