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Editorial: Slugs at the newspaper

"Slug it for sports."

Does this phrase make any sense to you? You might have to work on a newspaper to follow the logic.

"Sports" would mean the sports pages. Clear enough. "Slug"? Hit it? Put a slug of the slimy molluscan variety on it? What indeed is "it"—quick answer, the newspaper article being written. The writer is being directed by the editor to mark it for the sports page.

Dear readers, slug is a leftover term from the days that type was set on a Linotype machine … each line of type, a row of letters in reverse (so they would be legible after ink was applied to them and this ink was applied to the paper) was called a slug. The slugs were about one inch of solid lead in height, topped by the type—as in the decoration on a frosted cake.

The Linotype was the keystone of the "hot metal" era of printing. The Linotype operator sat at a keyboard, which incidentally was not arranged like the familiar QWERTY keyboard, and set the stories placed before him th...

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