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In pinball instructions, I always come across the spelling "lite" being used instead of "light", e.g. "drop all targets to lite special". The practice persists to this day in modern pinball machines. I never found out why, but I have some theories: Does it originate from 1940s spelling or slang? (You've got similar spelling in 1940s superheroes like Dr. Mid-Nite) Was it used because of its brevity? (Less letters taken up on the instruction cards) Did it originate for symmetry's sake? (Like four objects to hit on a pinball table to spell "lite" may look more pleasing than five to spell "light"?) I've searched a lot of pinball forums, but couldn't find any answers, and it's bugging me. If someone knows the answer, it mite make my nite rite.

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  • Related if not an accurate description of how the spelling 'lite' arose: [What do you call words that are misspelled to add effect?](english.stackexchange.com/questions/33966/… Jan 21 at 15:01
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    It's possible there was just one person writing the instructions for a Bally or some other major pinball machine maker for many years, and they happened to use that variant spelling, and in the days before computer spelling checkers, it was never caught.
    – The Photon
    Jan 21 at 16:57
  • Spelling doesn't matter. You should probly just ignore it like everybody else. Jan 22 at 2:07

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Lite was actually a spelling variant of light till a few decades ago, probably because of their identical pronunciation.

lite (adj.)

alternative spelling of light (adj.1), by 1962, but used from at least 1917 as a word-forming element in product names, often as a variation of light (n.).

(Etymonline)

It is in the start of the 20th century that lite gains specialized use in the marketplace, appearing as a word element meaning "light" in commercial brand names. Early examples are Prest-O-Lite (an acetylene-fueled headlight), Auto-Lite (a spark plug), and Kwik-Lite (a flashlight). By mid-century, it is firmly established as an attention-getting equivalent to light, as both a noun and adjective, that people in marketing and advertising begin to exploit in their describing and naming of products. Nite as a word for night was also so used at the time especially in the names of nightclubs.

……….

Today, this "marketing" lite, along with light, is commonly attached to food or beverage items made with a lower calorie content or with less of some ingredient (such as salt, fat, or alcohol) than usual. Some examples are lite popcorn, lite ham, lite yogurt, lite salad dressing, lite juice, and lite beer. When used as an element in a brand name, it is often placed postpositively—that is, at end of another word.

(MW)

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  • Thanks, but that doesn't explain why it's almost never spelled "light" on pinball machines and why the "lite" spelling is used to this day. Jan 21 at 9:07
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    It's probably just quirky tradition to use certain terms and spelling in pinball. I doubt it's a formal high level decision.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 21 at 10:18
  • Google Books doesn't report any instances of the spelling pinball lites. Google Books only returns one instance of that collocation for the entire 20th Century (and it's a figurative usage comparing aircraft control panels to pinball machines!). My guess is perhaps just one person in a pinball "service department" (working for one company) liked the spelling. Who reads " instructions" before playing pinball? Jan 21 at 12:01
  • ...OR if you mean some text written on the actual machine itself, then the "aberrant" spelling is just a typical dumbed-down "attract mode" advertising device. Compare the Back to Skule slogan used by countless retail outlets to remind parents that their children need new clothes before they return to school after their summer holidays. Jan 21 at 12:08
  • AFAIR that spelling of 'lite' is also used on slot/fruit machines – the more advanced kind where bonus features can be enabled by the play. Jan 21 at 17:33

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