Did you know that’s the original form of control? I didn’t (or more precisely, I probably did at some point and later forgot). The OED says control is “perh. a. F. contrôle, earlier contrerolle ‘the copie of a roll (of account, etc.), a paralell of the same qualitie and content with th’ originall; also, a controlling or ouerseeing’ (Cotgr.), corresp. to med.L. contrarotulus, f. contra against, counter (cf. CONTRA- 3) + rotulus ROLL. But, as the n. appears only about 1600 in Eng., and app. not in the original literal sense, but only as a noun of action, it was probably then formed immediately from the verb. A few examples of COUNTER-ROLL (q.v.) directly represent the Fr.
“Johnson (copied in later Dicts.) has as first sense, but without quotation, ‘A register or account kept by another officer, that each may be examined by the other’. This J. retained from Bailey’s folio, where it was founded on the statement in Kersey’s Phillips, 1706, ‘properly, a Book, or Register, in which a Roll is kept of other Registers’. But this is merely an etymological remark, applicable to med.L. contrarotulus, and OF. contrerolle; there is no evidence that control was ever so used in Eng.: see COUNTER-ROLL.”
Neat, huh?
By the way, I’m off to Cape Cod for a brief but much-needed vacation; I’ll be back Saturday evening.


  1. What, no control freaks around here?
    It seems to me the “counter-roll” sense of the word survives in the term “controller,” meaning the chief accounting or auditing officer of a business or institution. “Controls” in accounting usage refer to doublechecks that tell you, basically, that the account books are right and employees are not stealing because two separate people using different methodology agree on a bottom line, for example in an inventory control. Here’s some verbiage from a bean-counter on accounting controls: It seems to me the “counter-roll” sense also comes up in the usage “control group” in a scientific experiment.

  2. I am now working on a system for $MAJOR_BANK that is classified as ‘controls’; it looks at transactions to see if anything bad has happened to them (for example, if one has been deleted, which shouldn’t happen). The monitoring system is called Sentinel, the browser for bad transactions is called Warden.

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