Week of July 18, 2021

Getting Soft on Us


Soft drinks contain no alcohol, and so were first called soft to differentiate them from hard liquor.


Often people are said to “soft pedal” inconvenient information or positions they’ve taken before. This is actually a reference to the soft pedal on a piano, which quiets tones when pressed.


The game of softball was born of an Ivy League alumni rivalry. One day in November 1887, some Yale and Harvard alumni at Chicago’s Farragut Boat Club finally got word that Yale had won their football game against Harvard, causing one exited Yale alum to throw an old boxing glove at a Harvard alum, who attempted to hit it back with a stick. This led reporter George Hancock to lace up the glove like a ball, draw out the diamond’s lines with chalk, and prompt the first softball game. Over the next few decades, the rules and governing bodies were established, as was the name “softball,” since the game had, until 1926, been variously known as Indoor Ball, Kitten Ball, Playground Ball, Diamond Ball, Pumpkin Ball, Recreation Ball, Twilight Ball, Army Ball, Lightning Ball, Mushball, Big Ball, and Night Ball.


Computer software, the electronically-stored instructions for the machine’s operating system or applications, was first given that name in the 1960s to differentiate it from hardware, or the physical components of the computer, like screens, disk drives, and keyboards.


Teddy Roosevelt, the first time he wrote the now-famous line “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” attributed it to an African proverb, but no record of this term being used before Teddy has been found.


“Soft power” is a modern political term for the influence that a nation develops not through traditional wealth and military might, but rather diplomacy, communication, cultural values, and goodwill.


Similarly, a “soft sell” is an approach to promoting or selling something with subtle and gentle persuasion rather than aggressive sales techniques.