Fixing things

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm, featuring the computer dogs (the bull terrier Grimm at the keyboard, the Boston terrier Ralph advising him):


To understand this strip, you need to know about keyboard shortcuts on a Mac computer, in particular the combination

Command-Z: Undo the previous command. You can then press Command-Shift-Z to Redo, reversing the undo command.

⌘-Z undoes, or reverses, keyboard actions. In the cartoon, the dimwitted Ralph suggests using this computer key combination to reverse events in general — in this case, the falling of the lamp to the floor and the breaking that resulted from the fall. ⌘-Z will fix it!

If only.

From an Apple support site on Mac keyboard shortcuts:

By pressing a combination of keys, you can do things that normally need a mouse, trackpad, or other input device.

To use a keyboard shortcut, hold down one or more modifier keys while pressing the last key of the shortcut. For example, to use the shortcut Command-C (copy), hold down Command, press C [note: this means to press the key labeled C, not to press a cap C, which would be Shift-C], then release both keys. Mac menus and keyboards often use symbols for certain keys, including the modifier keys:

Command ⌘ Shift ⇧ Option ⌥ Control ⌃ Caps Lock ⇪ Fn

If you’re using a keyboard made for Windows PCs, use the Alt key instead of Option, and the Windows logo key instead of Command

A few Command shortcuts:

Command-X   Cut the selected item and copy it to the Clipboard.

Command-C    Copy the selected item to the Clipboard. This also works for files in the Finder.

Command-V    Paste the contents of the Clipboard into the current document or app. This also works for files in the Finder.

Command-Z    Undo the previous command. You can then press Command-Shift-Z to Redo, reversing the undo command…

Command-A   Select All items.

Command-F    Find items in a document or open a Find window.

Command-Z worked into a t-shirt design (by John Hobbs):


“Command Z” has been adopted as the name of a NYT Fashion & Style column by “Jessica Bennett on the perks, perils and absurdities of the way we communicate now”. From her latest column, yesterday, “Laugh and the World Laughs With You. Type ‘Ha,’ Not So Much”, on the representation of laughter on-line:

(#3) Illustration by Elwood Smith

Laughter, linguists will tell you, establishes closeness and conveys meaning. It sends micromessages to our conversation partner through length, tone, intonation and facial expressions. “It does the work of establishing cohesion,” said Michelle McSweeney, a research scholar at Columbia University who studies digital communication. “To say, ‘I feel comfortable enough around you to laugh.’”

And since we can’t crack up, lose it, giggle, guffaw, snort, break into hysterics, snicker, chuckle or simply nod and smile on text, we’ve had to come up with a host of different ways to get across what we mean.

Take hahaha, which we’ll call basic laughter. It’s actually anything but basic, with the ability to shorten (haha), lengthen (hahahahahaha), capitalize (HAHAHA), punctuate (Ha!), elongate (Haaaaaaaaa), or replace with an “e” (hehe) — though, realtalk, The New Yorker may have called hehehe a “younger person’s e-laugh,” but ask any actual young person today and his or her response is likely to be “ew.” (Heh, however, is acceptable.)

Then of course there is LOL, for “laugh out loud,” which actually means the opposite, because nobody using LOL has actually laughed out loud since at least 2015. “It’s like saying ‘k,’” said Sharon Attia, a 22-year-old college senior, noting that a single ha is also pretty much the equivalent to giving someone your best resting bitch face.

Variation according to sociocultural context is everywhere, as is change (often, rapid change) through time. And, apparently, sarcasm and irony.

2 Responses to “Fixing things”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Choosing Command-Z, the Apple undo command, rather than Control-Z, the equivalent Windows command, represents a choice that seems a bit surprising in light of the relative popularity of the two operating systems.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I have, on occasion, laughed out loud at things I see on the Internet. However, I don’t think I’ve ever typed the sequence “lol” except as a quotation.

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