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Sometimes perfection doesn’t need improvement. Invented more than a century ago, the paper clip is a bastion for simplicity in design.

A common grammatical error is to confuse the words “stationary” and “stationery.” The former, as a nearby old Webster’s Dictionary helpfully advises, means “not moving: staying in one place or position.” And the latter refers to “office materials (such as paper, pens and ink).” But when we turn to the paper clip—one of the most trusted, longstanding and ubiquitous items of almost any pencil case, desk organizer or filing cabinet drawer—both words and either spelling seem to be equally appropriate.

In a world where even the crust of a humble takeout pizza can scarcely be left free from elaborate additions, the paper clip stands steadfast. Immune to fleeting fads, fashions and the mania for more and more innovative technology, its design has remained largely unchanged for close to a century now.

  • Words:
    Travis Elborough
  • Illustration:
    Katrin Coetzer

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  • Words:
    Travis Elborough
  • Illustration:
    Katrin Coetzer
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