A question for the ages: Disk vs disc?

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. Sometimes I see the word disk spelled “disc,” and other times as “disk.” I know I'm probably nitpicking, but which is correct?

A. If you're into picking nits, you've come to the right place! When new words enter the English language, they often appear in one or more variations until one form prevails over the others. There are also occasions when competing forms remain in use for a long time. Such is the case with “disk” and “disc.”

"Disk" came into the English lexicon in the mid 17th century and was originally spelled with a “k.” "Disc" appeared on the scene about 50 years later as a derivative of the Latin discus -- though the Greeks didn't help matters by spelling it “diskos,” which conjures up images of polyester, strobe lights, and John Travolta in a white suit.

The spellings later began to be sorted out by function. Late in the 19th century, people started using “disc” to refer to a new method of making phonograph recordings on a flat plate. “Disc” became the accepted spelling within this context, which is why we listen to disc jockeys and not disk jockeys.

Both “disk” and “disc” were used interchangeably well into the 20th century, with people in the U.K. tending to use “disc,” and Americans preferring “disk.” In the 1940s, when American computer scientists needed a term to describe flat, data-storage devices, they chose the spelling “disk,” which became the common usage in related words such as hard disk and floppy disk.

When the compact disk made its debut in the 1970s, both “disk” and “disc” were in competition. Computer folks preferred the familiar “disk” spelling, while people in the music industry, who viewed the shiny circular plates as another form of phonograph record, referred to them as “compact discs.”

These preferences soon became standard practice in each respective industry. That's why we buy compact disks in computer stores, but the same storage devices that contain music are called compact discs in music stores. To further complicate matters, the computer industry created the optical disk, which is the same format that the entertainment industry later used to create the DVD or digital video disc.

Q. How can I open several specific photos at once? In other words, I don't want it to close one photo when I open a new one. Thanks, Mr. M.

A. To open multiple photos when viewing a list of files, hold down the SHIFT key and click the first photo file to select it, then scroll down to the last one and click that. This will highlight (select) all files in between. If the photos you want to open are not located next to each other, use the CTRL key instead of the SHIFT key, and select (highlight) just the photo files you want to open.

When you have the photos selected that you want to open, right-click and select OPEN. This same technique works for cutting and copying files, as well.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

Platewire
Have you ever been at a traffic light when the moron in the car ahead of you tosses his or her cigarette out the window? We’ve all seen similar vehicular atrocities and many worse. Now, thanks to platewire.com, if you have a beef with another driver, you can avoid any unpleasant road-rage confrontations and instead post his or her license plate and your pithy commentary. You can also write something nice in the unlikely event you witness a spontaneous act of vehicular courtesy. Caution: Some of the postings fall squarely within the “coarse” to “vile” categories, so sensitive individuals would be well advised to avoid this site.
www.platewire.com

Television Obscurities
Here you will find an ever-expanding collection of oddities, curiosities and relics from television's past, including more than 50 articles covering subjects such as short-lived programs, unsold pilots, misplaced television promos, and more.
www.tvobscurities.com

Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit www.MrModem.com.