4 Sayings We Got from The World of Printing

Printing Press Letter Block

Language is a funny thing – we tend to take the words and expressions we take for granted, and yet every one of those building blocks of meaning originated somewhere. Interestingly, the world of printing gifted us with many of the phrases we commonly use today. This is not too surprising of course since the printing press is often mentioned alongside antibiotics and gunpowder as inventions that changed the world completely.

In celebration of the movable-type printing press that helped to disseminate knowledge wider and faster than ever before, here are five expressions that evolved beside this ground-breaking mechanical device:


That’s Such a Cliché!

The French term for stereotyping is a very interesting example of a word that evolved from a sound. Back in the day, French printers would cast certain phrases that were used frequently in one block, so it could be used alongside individual letters – this saved them the time and expense of casting whole printing plates from metal for every project. The term used to describe these frequently used phrases was derived from the verb clicher, which means ‘to click’ – emulating the sound the plates would make as they were clicked into place.

Are You Feeling Out of Sorts?

Back in the day, printers referred to individually cast pieces of type as ‘sorts’. At that time, to be out of sorts would mean that you had run out of type pieces in the middle of a job (it was expensive, so most printers had a finite amount to hand). Naturally, the situation was not ideal, which is why the phrase evolved to mean grumpy, unwell or a little bit off-kilter.

You Made an Impression

This one is not all that tough to puzzle out. The ‘press’ part of ‘impression’ and ‘impressive’ all refer to the printing press, of course!


Today the word ‘ditto’ is used as a shorthand way of repeating something that has already been stated. Guess where this turn of phrase had its origin. In the early 1900s, a company called DITTO Inc. manufactured a rudimentary copying machine, which made such an impression that the brand name became woven into everyday language.

Now you know! Keep this in mind next time you want to colour your conversation with some interesting trivia. Keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks and months for more interesting info on printing history, marketing trends and more. In the meantime, we invite you to get in touch with an Asset Print representative to learn more about our processes and services.

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