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ragingloli's avatar

Why is a recorder called a "recorder", when said recorder does not record anything?

Asked by ragingloli (49139points) 1 week ago

Speaking of the wooden flute.

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3 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Since the instrument is first noted during the middle ages, why is a tape machine called a recorder ?

rebbel's avatar

So, I’ve been researching a little bit.
My thinking was to first seek synonyms.
I found register.
That made me think of my father’s accordeon, which has five registers, which are different heights of tone ladders (if I’m correct in the terminology).
So, since the recorder has, I think, eight holes, which represent eight tones, I think it might come from this.
I love etymology!

Could still be wrong though…

By the way, this was something I also wondered for years, but never bothered, or forgot, to find out.
In Dutch it’s a blokfluit (flute, build from one piece of wood).

flutherother's avatar

The online Etymological Dictionary gives this….

recorder (n.2)

“musical instrument having a long tube with seven holes and a mouthpiece,” early 15c. (earlier recordys, mid-14c.), from record (v.) in an archaic sense of “quietly sing or repeat a tune, practice a tune,” used mostly of birds. Darwin, writing of birds in “The Descent of Man,” says, “The young males continue practising, or as the bird-catchers say, recording, for ten or eleven months.”

The musical instrument was known to Shakespeare and Milton (“In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood/Of flutes and soft recorders,” “Paradise Lost”), but the name, and the device, were rarely heard by mid-1800s (it is marked “obsolete” in Century Dictionary, 1895), ousted by the flute, but both enjoyed revival after 1911 as an easy-to-play instrument for musical beginners.

Seynte Aldelme diede in this tyme havynge in habite and in use instrumentes of the arte off musike, as in harpes, pipes, recordres. [Higden’s “Polychronicon,” 15c. translation]

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