Ahhhh — another blog about my love of words:

I was listening to a show the other day and one person was making fun of another for not knowing how to type. That made me stop and think. Not only because I “don’t know how to type” but because “Do you know how to type?” is an interesting phrase. It has always been that when someone asked you that question he meant “can you operate a typewriter and type quickly in a professional manner?”. Not many other common phrases are as tied to professionalism. It was almost unique in this way. When someone asks you, “Do you know how to drive?” he’s just asking if you can operate a motor vehicle. He don’t want to know if you are good enough to drive professionally. Do you know how to play football? Can you swim? Do you know how to cook? Can you play the violin? None of these have a professional connotation.

It takes some skill and practice to operate a typewriter. I’m not talking about how fast one can type; that’s a skill all on its own that remains nearly the same today on a computer. I talking about lining up the paper, knowing when to use the carriage return, single spacing, double spacing, hyphenating, and lining up the paper again if you happen to pull it out. I always found that last one impossible. I had to use a typewriter back in high school and it was tricky. When a teacher said a paper had to be typewritten there was usually a groan from the class. Why did we waste all that time learning to write in script anyway? They now wanted us to type. Easier on the teachers I figure.

First thing you needed was access to a typewriter. Believe me not every family had one. If yours didn’t than a pain in the ass became a big pain in the ass. My family got one while I was in high school so I was luckier than some. Then typing paper had to be found; no other paper would do. Typing paper was always one of those things that got put in a closet and forgotten about. So typing always began with a search. After that margins and spacing had to be set and heaven help you if you made a mistake. The page had to be typed again. White out was forbidden on some papers but not others. It was always best not to use it. I still hate using a typewriter and I haven’t touched one since high school. There is nothing romantic about it for me.

Nowadays nobody asks if you know how to type. After all everybody knows how to type. You punch a key and the letter comes up on the computer screen. You can move it right or left, change its size or color, make it any style font you have or delete it with the touch of a button. Carriage return, what’s that? The line just drops down to the next one when it’s filled up. Margins? Drag and drop. It’s easy to type. Look! Even I can do it now. I wonder how many of today’s high schoolers have ever been asked that phrase? Somebody may ask if you know “Word” or how many words a minute you type but “Do you Know how to type?” is almost extinct from our common language. I think that’s because typing is now done by everyone on a general machine (a computer) as opposed to a specialty one (the typewriter). Things just change.