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That's -30-

Posted by Masakim on October 05, 2001

In Reply to: That's -30- posted by ESC on October 05, 2001

: : When receiving a news story, "30" was used to indicate the end of the text. The thread below of "86" made me wonder why? Any "newsies" out there?

: An ex-newsie.

: THIRTY -- The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) lists two possible origins, It comes either from the old telegraphy symbol indicating the end of a day's transmission, a kind of Goodnight, I'm closing up the office, or from old printers' jargon. The maximum line on Linotype composing machines is 30 picas, about five inches, and when an operator reaches 30 picas, he can go no farther.

The use of *thirty* for the end of a story is an old piece of journalism and telegraphy slang that first appears in the late nineteenth century. In order to signal the end of a transmission, it was necessary to have a code for the end of a transmission that was unmistakably not part of the transmission itself. This code was the sequence *x*, which, many decades before the rise of the pornographic film industry, was unlikely to occur as a part of the actual story.
*x* as an indication of completeness came to be read as *thirty* because of the interpretation of the meaningless X's as the Roman numeral for the number 30. ...
Eventually *thirty* developed its own figurative senses, so that in addition to meaning 'the end of a transmission', it could mean 'the end (of anything)', as 'the end of a workshift' or even 'the end of life; death'. These extended uses are no doubt rather rare beyond jounalism circles.
From The Mavens' Word of the Day (March 14, 1997)