I felt nostalgic to find the word ‘copy deck’ in the latest EL& U question, “Is subcopy a word?”followed with the statement:

“A copywriter just sent me over a copy deck that had the word subcopy to describe the text immediately after the page title.”

I remember that when I was working in an ad agency, expatriate staffs, particularly my senior who happened to be British liked to use the word “deck” for the package of presentation documents and a set of handouts at the meeting. I followed his suit.

Seeing the word, “Copy deck” again after long time, I checked online dictionaries to reconfirm whether I had rightly used the word, ‘deck’ around that time, and was embarrassed to find none of Cambridge, Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and OALED registers the definitions of “Deck” other than (1) a floor of ship, (2) a package of cards, and (3) a component or unit for playing records, or recording tapes, or compact discs.

Beside ‘a floor of a ship,’ Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘deck’ as: (mainly US) a set of cards used for playing card games. Oxford Dictionary defines: (1) chiefly North American, a pack of cards. (2) a component or unit for playing or recording records, tapes, or compact discs: a cassette deck Merriam -Webster Dictionary simply defines: a pack of playing cards.

Is it far-stretched to use “deck” for a package of items (documents, exhibits, and writings) as we had used to and as used in the question other than cards? Were we using the word wrong way?

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    People also refer to "slide decks" – simchona Jan 11 '13 at 1:41

If embarrassment belongs anywhere, it belongs with the publishers of the dictionaries, not with you. Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, found at Wordnik, includes this definition:

deck n. A pile of things laid one upon another; a heap; a store; a file, as of cards or papers.

In short, you were using the word legitimately.

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  • thefreedictionary.com/deck – Blessed Geek Jan 11 '13 at 1:55
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    OED treats that sense as no longer in use, with the last examples from the 17th century. – user31341 Jan 11 '13 at 2:26
  • This is not the answer. – Robusto Jan 11 '13 at 3:58
  • Legitimate, but the usage is not very common. It is liable to cause significant confusion without abundant context! – leoger Jan 11 '13 at 5:12
  • I haven't found this usage to be all that common, either, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was rather common in a specialized domain, such as print advertising, as part of "trade speak." – J.R. Jan 11 '13 at 23:24

Here are the fifth and sixth senses from the OED entry (note that the latter is considered "dead"). I don't think that the usage you are proposing is too far-fetched. It's just too localised to make it into the dictionaries. If you have some textual citations you might consider sending a letter to OED, as they are always on the lookout for missing words.

a. ‘A pack of cards piled regularly on each other’ (Johnson); also the portion of the pack left, in some games, after the hands have been dealt. Since 17th c. dial. and in U.S.

1594 Selimus sig. F4v, If I chance but once to get the decke, To deale about and shufle as I would.
1594 R. Barnfield Shepheard Content viii. sig. Eiij, Pride deales the Deck whilst Chance doth choose the Card.
1595 Shakespeare Henry VI, Pt. 3 v. i. 44 But whilst he sought to steale the single ten, The king was finelie fingerd from the decke.
1609 R. Armin Hist. Two Maids More-clacke sig. D1v, Ile deale the cards and cut ye from the decke.
1701 N. Grew Cosmol. Sacra i. iii. §21 The Selenites [have the shape], of Parallel Plates, as in a Deck of Cards.
1777 J. Brand Observ. Pop. Antiq. (1849) II. 449 In some parts of the North of England a pack of cards is called to this day..a deck of cards.
1860 in J. R. Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (ed. 3)
1882 B. Harte Gentl. La Porte in Flip 135, I reckon the other fifty-one of the deck ez as pooty.
1884 R. Holland Gloss. Words County of Chester (1886) , Deck o' cards, a pack of cards.
1885 Cent. Mag. 29 548/1 An old ratty deck of cards.

b. A packet of narcotics; a small portion of some drug wrapped in paper. U.S. slang.

1922 E. F. Murphy Black Candle (1926) i. v. 52 Small paper packages [of cocaine]..are called ‘decks’, and contain about a couple of sniffs.
1927 Flynn's 9 July 462/2 At night it was ‘snow’ that went over the counter..to poor devils who left behind them three dollars..for a deck.
1949 ‘J. Evans’ Halo in Brass (1951) iv. 29 A deck of nose candy for sale to the right guy.
1966 C. Himes Heat's On iii. 27 When it's analysed, they'll find five or six half-chewed decks of heroin.

a. A pile of things laid flat upon each other.

1625 F. Markham Bk. Honour ii. vi. 63 Any whose Pedigree lyes so deepe in the decke, that few or none will labour to find it.
1631 J. Mabbe tr. F. de Rojas Spanish Bawd xix. 185 Subtill words, whereof such as shee are never to seeke, but have them still ready in the deck.
1634 R. Sanderson Serm. II. 287 So long as these things should hang upon the file, or lie in the deck, he might perhaps be safe.
1673 A. Marvell Rehearsal Transpros'd II. 394 A certain Declaration..which you have kept in deck until this season.

b. Part of a newspaper, periodical, etc., headline containing more than one line of type, esp. the part printed beneath the main headline. Also attrib.

1935 H. Straumann Newspaper Headlines i. 28 These are first decks (and streamers) only.
1935 H. Straumann Newspaper Headlines iii. 87 The first three lines or ‘decks’ as they would be called in present-day journalism.
1965 L. H. Whitten Progeny of Adder (1966) 127 The eight-column headline told him of Pantelein's body being found. But it was the ‘deck’ headline that held him: county coroner cites ‘vampirism’.

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    The newspaper usage identified here is certainly consistent with the reference to "copy deck" from the OP; but appears not to be related to "a package of items" as he inferred. – Fortiter Jan 11 '13 at 2:53
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    @Foltier. I didn’t say a package of any ‘items.’ I said we called a package (set) of ‘papers’ such as a file of documents including proposals, supporting data, and exhibits we used for client presentation and handouts used at the meeting a “(presentation) deck” at an ad agency. – Yoichi Oishi Jan 11 '13 at 21:27

"Deck" is a common term in news style writing:

Subhead (or dek or deck)
A phrase, sentence or several sentences near the title of an article or story, a quick blurb or article teaser.

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As long as they're stacked. A stack of punch-cards (which is quite a different thing to a deck of playing cards) is called a deck. Like playing cards, they're in a stack and it's been suggested that this was by analogy to ships' decks or items stacked on them.

Even if it wasn't common, it should be clear.

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  • My recollection of this usage (Place the appropriate header cards on the deck before placing it in the reader.) is that it rested upon the physical similarity of each item. When I placed a 6x4 file card between decks stored in box, the result was not a deck but a collection of decks. By analogy a pile of papers in different formats would not be a deck but a heap? – Fortiter Jan 11 '13 at 2:29

I am a stupid American, and I've heard deck used when describing a collection of slides, PowerPoint or otherwise. Calling it a deck, rather than a presentation, differentiates the collection of prepared visuals from the style, manner and delivery used by the presenter.

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