Posted by Lewis on December 13, 2007
In Reply to: Rubber stamp posted by Smokey Stover on November 29, 2007
: : What does the phrase 'rubber stamp' mean? In a sentence: "Don't be a rubber stamp."
: Since about 1881 or earlier rubber stamps were used in the passage of bureaucratic papers of various kinds from one office to the next, often to show that such-and-such office had seen the document and approved. Hence, rubber stamps became one of the symbols of excessive bureaucracy, and a rubber stamp, in your sentence, would be someone whose role was merely to signify their approval of something, to endorse uncritically. The OED says of "rubber stamp" as a verb: "To endorse or approve uncritically; to pass routinely or automatically."
rubber stamps were widening the practise of 'marking' documents - before rubber stamps (which I guess followed the development of vulcanisation of rubber) - seals and wax were used to the same effect on a more limited scale. seals were held by office holders in addition to their personal seals - often an initial/coat of arms. individuals would have their personal seals which could be impressed in hot wax to show that the person had seen the document. 'deeds' required sealing - signing in itself was not enough and old copy documents would often have "L.S." on them representing 'locus sigili' where the seal had been placed.
with the expansion of bureaucracy following the industrial revolution - the ability to record who a document had passed before became more important and rubber stamps for individuals and departments commonplace. the most common use is for 'approved' and in my work with the courts, who still 'seal' and stamp documents - Judges often remark that they are NOT there to 'rubber stamp', but to make decisions.