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etaoin shrdlu

[et-ee-oin shurd-loo, -oh-in, ee-tee-]
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noun
  1. the letters produced by running the finger down the first two vertical rows of keys at the left of the keyboard of a Linotype machine: used as a temporary marking slug or to indicate that an earlier mistake in the line necessitates resetting, but sometimes inadvertently cast and printed.
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Origin of etaoin shrdlu

First recorded in 1955–60
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Word Origin and History for etaoin shrdlu

1931, journalism slang, the sequence of characters you get if you sweep your finger down the two left-hand columns of Linotype keys, which is what typesetters did when they bungled a line and had to start it over. It was a signal to cut out the sentence, but it nonetheless sometimes slipped past harried compositors and ended up in print.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper