You Think You’re a Genius? Ditto.

You will sometimes hear Americans use the word “ditto” in a conversation. Ditto is used as a response to what someone else has said to mean “That is true for me, too” or “The same with me,” as in:

Edmund: I am really cold.
Hillary: Ditto! Let’s turn on the heat.

If you ask Americans where the term came from, most would say it comes from making copies (creating a an exact duplicate of an image using a machine). You see, early copiers* (machines used to make copies) were informally called “ditto machines” or “mimeographs,” and produced copies that we called “dittos.”

When I was a kid (many centuries ago), teachers passed out (distributed) dittos in the classroom. When I was teaching in the 1980s and 1990s, I used to spend a lot of time creating dittos for my students (here’s an example of one from Wikipedia). Nowadays, copy machines use a different process to make the copies, so we no longer use “dittos.”

However, the word “ditto” does not actually come from the old ditto machines. As with a lot of words in American English, it has its origins (beginnings) in another language – in this case, Italian.

“Ditto” comes from the Italian word ditto, a form of the verb “to say” (dire). It was used in accounting (keeping financial accounts) or recordkeeping (an account of information) to represent a word so that it didn’t need to be repeated.

When we started using this word in English, we used it to avoid having to repeat a month or year in a date on accounting or legal documents. For example, instead of writing, “on March 2, March 13, March 22” you could write, “on March 2, ditto 13, ditto 22.”

People still express this same idea sometimes in everyday writing, but instead of putting the word “ditto” they use a quotation mark like this: , which is sometimes called a “ditto mark.” This is placed in a column underneath a row that contains the same information, so you don’t have to write it again.

For example, if you arrive at the doctor’s office and you are asked to sign in (write down your name and the time you arrived), you might see people who arrived close to the same time put a underneath the time above it, like this:

Rob Roy        10:15 AM
John Cho            ”
Maria Alma         “

This means that the Maria and John arrived at the same time as Rob, 10:15 A.M.

As I said at the start, the word “ditto” can be used to agree with someone, but often, it is used to say, “I am the same.” So, for example, if I say, “I stink (smell badly) after exercising,” and you respond, “I agree,” you’re saying that you think I stink, too. However, if you respond “Ditto,” you are saying that you, like me, also stink after exercising, which means we both need a bath.

Now you can understand the title of this blog post: “You Think You’re a Genius (very intelligent person)? Ditto.” By responding with “Ditto,” I’m not saying I also think you are a genius, but rather that I think that I am a genius as well.

~ Jeff

* Ditto machines were made by a company called “Ditto Corporation,” although it seems likely the company itself took its name from this same idea as the accounting expression, from the Italian.

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14 Responses to You Think You’re a Genius? Ditto.

  1. Peter says:

    Thanks a bunch chief :))))

    Well
    I have been using the word, gambit if u will, for eons yet I didn’t know its origin.
    Well , I knew it is a
    derivative word syphoned up off of some other language out there.

    But , lazy that I am i never went out of my way to looked it up.
    Well ,in my defence ,I was familiar with the usage, so
    I never felt the need.
    It said ,I was always wondering. My first guess was Italian. As , there is this Italian tone about it.
    Turns out , I was not that off.
    today, you confirmed it.

    So it is in fact a loan word from Italian.
    Thanks for clearing that up ,chief

    U know
    One less think to bear in mind.

    However ,to be totally honest with you. I didn’t have the slightest idea ,inkling if u will , that it is an accounting jargon term. Ergo , the
    “I will be damned ” I opened my comment with

    For the life of me , I could not ascertain the word to accounting.
    Who would ?

    Very interesting post chief
    As usual u came through for us.

    🙂
    Pete

    P.S. the snap of babies up there threw me off first.
    U know
    Today , I checked in to see weather u guys put up A new post or something.

    The split -second I opened the page
    The image of babies popped out at me.

    Well , I m known to be not a kid person.

    I was gonna close the post and take a crack at it some other time. You knows, get around to it st a later time.

    Then ” ditto ” jumped out at me.

    It got me thinking
    ” Hum , interesting
    Ditto and babies so irrelevant ” the line of thought piqued my curiosity.
    I put everything down and started reading.

  2. Peter says:

    The term “Ditto mark” is the high light of the post to me.
    I always use the symbol which Indicates duplication. You know , to avoid writing the same thing over and over again. If anything , it is a big time savor.
    How ever the more interesting part is not the sign ,symbol if u will ,but the term ” ditto mark”
    i think it is a safe bet to say , of all people almost all of them don’t know the sign actually have a name let alone a cool one.

    Well
    Thanks though jeff
    We all know now.

    The thing about the symble is it is an international sign
    It is not something peculiar to North America. It is bordeless.
    I think , every one use the mark to avoid repetition.

    But , I think , The most interesting of all is the origin of it.
    I mean , who uses the sign first.
    Well , it must have started at some point then caugh on on global scale

    Who started the bad boy sigh ?:)
    Anyone care to share?:)
    It could be a fun fact , a trivia if u will

    🙂
    Pete

  3. Tania says:

    Hi,

    I was scared reading the short story recommended by you in your post,
    “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benet.
    It was night when I read the first part of the story… exactly the part where
    the devil appears in the story when Jabez Stone says –
    “I vow it’s enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil.
    And, I would, too, for two cents!”

  4. Tania says:

    Hi,

    The Devil, called and the stranger, is polite, refined, “soft-spoken,
    dark-dressed stranger”, clicking his white teeth, having
    ” a black pocketbook full of papers”.
    In full mystery, “the stranger being scheduled to show up on the
    stroke of midnight”.
    “And just at that moment there was a sharp rap on the door.
    The stranger came in – very dark and tall he looked in the firelight,…
    his eyes glowing like a fox’s deep in the woods.”
    “Smiling and showing his teeth… the liquor was cold in the jug,
    but it came steaming into the glass.”

  5. Tania says:

    Hi,
    Yes, it’s a short story on a very unlucky and poor New Hampshire farmer
    who sells his soul to the Devil and is defended by Daniel Webster ,
    a famous statesman, lawyer, and orator.
    As only dead people were the jury, Daniel Webster knew that he had to talk
    defending his client till the break of dawn.
    And indeed…the judge and the jury disappear with the break of dawn.
    Exciting!
    I remember of One Thousand and One Nights.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi,
    I like how intelligently Daniel Webster talks to the jury fooling
    even the devil.
    “He was talking about the things that make a country a country,
    and a man a man. And he began with the simple things that everybody’s
    known and felt – the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young,
    and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day
    when you’re a child.”

  7. Tania says:

    Hi,
    I have understood why this short story, sometimes read in American schools,
    is so important and very nice.
    It’s about its major themes: patriotism, slavery, treatment of the Indians, and…
    to be easy to read, even the devil.

  8. Tania says:

    Hi,

    Thank you, dear Jeff.
    It was a pleasure to read this American story full of mystery and history.

    All the best for you,

    Tania

  9. Tania says:

    Hi,
    When we access “this short story” from your post, we have free access
    at ebooks from Project Gutenberg Australia.
    A very , very long ebooks list.
    Which book should we access?
    Maybe you can suggest us the best books and easy to read.

    Thank you.

  10. Tania says:

    Hi,

    Interesting and the idea about “California secedes from the U.S. and
    forms its own country”.
    I couldn’t believe. But reading and
    The Case for California Independence in 9 Simple Points…
    I don’t know what to say.

  11. Tania says:

    Hi,

    Nice and funny this new phrase to me, ditto.
    Thank you.

  12. Tania says:

    Hi,
    Reading Seth Godin blog…

    “If we only use money to make our decisions about worth,
    we’re going to get it wrong almost every time.”

  13. Tania says:

    Hi,

    It’s late , it’s time to go to bed in my country.

    Good night!

  14. Elizabeth Vilela says:

    In Portuguese, we say “Dito e feito”.
    Meaning “I advise you and that happened!”

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