In many an outdated medium one may come across words such as gram-O-phone or shear-O-matic.

Where does this 'tradition' of having the O seperated come from?

Does this stylistic choice have name? I've tried searching the web for answers but my efforts where fruitless.

Examples of this form of writing would be:

In 1904, the company received its charter as the Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada.

From Wikipedia

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    Gramophone is a word, without splitting out the O. This isn't the same for shear-o-matic. Oct 1, 2019 at 13:36
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    Shear-O-matic is obviously a pun on 'automatic'. I suppose when mechanical devices for doing particular tasks were first invented and trade names for them were coined, the 'new' element of the word was separated to make it stand out. Oct 1, 2019 at 14:06
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    @Cascabel Your link seems to be broken. Oct 1, 2019 at 14:36
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    The -o- in those two words have different paths, but they both ultimately go back to the Greek thematic vowel. If you look that up, you’ll have a good starting point. Oct 1, 2019 at 16:55
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    @Cascabel Your fishing rod appears to be broken. Oct 1, 2019 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


My thoughts and research on this: My first thought is it originated with the corporate advertising world. Then i thought, what’s old with an o in the middle. Gramophone! So I looked it up. American Heritage says it was originally a trademark for a Phonograph. Both words have an o in the middle and date to the late 1800s. The OED provided an interesting further possible clue: “origin, late 19th century : formed by inversion of elements of phonogram, a sound recording. The trademark gramophone is phonogram backwards. Easy enough from there to emphasize the O in the middle for advertising. It’s also easy to imagine the successful gramophone/phonogram inspiring copycat use by other firms with new gadgets to adopt the O - a 20th century ad meme before the word meme was coined. As others have noted, automatic provides a similar explanation, especially for kitchen gadgets, borrowing the O and adding the matic. It seems logical, but what I don’t know is if there are any examples earlier than gramophone/phonogram and variant phonograph.

  • 1
    why should we believe you? Please back up your answer with cited sources.
    – Lordology
    Oct 13, 2019 at 8:41

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