Why is it "Boilerplate text?"

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Etymology time! I was in a meeting yesterday and the consultant must have used the word "boilerplate" 10 times in 10 minutes. It took me nearly 3 decades to get motivated enough to want to know the origin of the term, but that meeting yesterday did it. So here goes! 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.

So the stuff that stuck around became known as the boilerplate. According to Wiki: "Until the 1950s, thousands of newspapers received and used this kind of boilerplate from the nation's largest supplier, the Western Newspaper Union." Today, of course, boilerplate is used to describe anything that's standard language, say in a contract or even in computer code.

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October 14, 2010 - 9:56am
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