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I have some question about the technical usage of the verb phrase "put down" here:

Gel pens are technically a rollerball variant, but use a much thicker, more viscous ink. So gel pens don’t bleed as much as most rollerballs, and you still get very smooth, fine and vivid lines. But they still generally have smudging and drying problems, and the ink runs thick; a 0.5 mm gel pen will put down a wider line than 0.5 mm in other types.

I cannot find a dictionary definition that fits this usage of "put down". Could this be some technical jargon?

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From the OED:

put down, v.

  1. a. To set down in writing, write down; to enter or record in a written document; to enter (one's or another's name) as a member, subscriber, etc., or as having opted or been selected for something.

The verb put, specifically when with down, is used to refer to the act of writing or recording something. The usage of "put down" here is still as it is normally. Something is still being placed down, and that thing is the "wider line" (OP) or "a written document" (OED). Specifically, the pen puts down ink on the paper (it puts down words in writing).

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  • Would "draw a wider line" be better than "put down a wider line"? – meatie Jul 14 '15 at 22:06
  • @meatie it would likely be more easily understood, but both are still correct. – Blubberguy22 Jul 14 '15 at 22:08
  • If you put down a bowling ball, then you have written nothing. – dockeryZ Jul 15 '15 at 0:50
  • @dockeryZ That would be because you are using a different definition of the word: To move to or bring into a lower position; to lower; to place on the ground, or so as to rest upon a surface. You're just misguided and failing to look at definition 5a instead of definition 1a in the OED (oed.com/view/Entry/155188). – Blubberguy22 Jul 15 '15 at 13:14
  • I might be wrong. But, suppose the word "pet" is written on some paper. The word "pet" as written on the paper is a bunch of lines (straight and curly) that make up the letter "p", "e", "t", which combine to form the word "pet". But people don't seem to write "put down the lines that form the word 'pet' ". They write "put down the word 'pet'". It seems that "put down" should be followed by some semantic entity (word "pet") represented by the lines. So, "put down a line" sounds very off to me. – meatie Jul 16 '15 at 18:46
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Just as a caulking gun 'lays down a bead' of caulk, a rollerball pen can be said to 'put down a line' of ink.

The verb relates to the deposition of a viscous substance on a surface along a certain path, not to recording or writing text.

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  • But there is the potential for confusion between the "deposit some substance" sense and the "record information" sense, then? – meatie Jul 14 '15 at 23:11
  • @meatie: It is quite clear that the passage is about the deposition of ink by the rollerball. The diameter is given (0.5mm). The "line" is not a line of text but a line of ink. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 15 '15 at 0:00
  • I might be wrong. But, suppose the word "pet" is written on some paper. The word "pet" as written on the paper is a bunch of lines (straight and curly) that make up the letter "p", "e", "t", which combine to form the word "pet". But people don't seem to write "put down the lines that form the word 'pet' ". They write "put down the word 'pet'". It seems that "put down" should be followed by some semantic entity (word "pet") represented by the lines. So, "put down a line" sounds very off to me. – meatie Jul 16 '15 at 18:47
  • @meatie: But the passage is not about writing words, so your hypothetical is inapt. It's about the thickness of the line of ink that is deposited by a rollerball having a 0.5mm diameter. boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=613624 – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 16 '15 at 19:55
  • @meatie - you would be (perhaps) correct if it were not for the preceding sentences which establish that the subject under discussion is the deposition of ink on paper, regardless of the significance of the resulting lines. For that matter, a pen can be used to draw a picture or a simple doodle, and there is no need to specify exactly what is being drawn. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 17 '15 at 16:48
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In this context, the phrase is akin to 'put down on paper' this means to 'write something down on paper' or 'record something on paper'.

Another way of saying this sentence is:

But they still generally have smudging and drying problems, and the ink runs thick; a 0.5 mm gel pen will draw/paint/write a wider line than 0.5 mm in other types.

'Draw' and 'paint' are not synonymous to 'put down' but may help illustrate the meaning of this sentence. Basically, when you write with the gel pen on paper, the line the pen produces by leaving ink on the paper, is wider than the width advertised (0.5mm) because the ink is thick.

See definition 1 here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/put+down

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  • Put down is synonymous to write. – Blubberguy22 Jul 14 '15 at 22:15
  • @Blubberguy22 In some cases it is, however the passage is talking in general terms about the ability of the pen to leave ink on a surface, creating a line. This could be while writing, but it could also be while drawing, depending on context. Thus, I think it is more correct to think about it in the sense of deposition of the ink in a line in a general sense as TRomano wrote in their answer. – amblina Jul 15 '15 at 9:27
  • Indeed, but since the OP asked if it was "technical jargon" it's helpful to state that both are true (as I did in my answer). – Blubberguy22 Jul 15 '15 at 13:16
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There's nothing abstract about put down, it's very literal.

  • A pen puts down ink
  • A soldier puts down his weapon
  • A mother puts down her child.

You can also put someone down, but down in the sense of depression.

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In this passage put down could be interpreted a number of ways. First, it could be seen as the ink itself actually being placed down upon the paper, as in the following definition from the OED:

put down, v.

  1. trans.

    a. To move to or bring into a lower position; to lower; to place on the ground, or so as to rest upon a surface.

In this usage, the phrase "put down a wider line" would be referring to the pen's act of literally putting down a line of ink on the paper, much like how one would put down a ball onto the ground; it is being "place[d]" or "move[d] to ... a lower position ... so as to rest upon a surface."

This could also have the meaning of the act of writing, as in the following definition (also from the OED):

put down, v.

  1. trans.

    a. To set down in writing, write down; to enter or record in a written document; to enter (one's or another's name) as a member, subscriber, etc., or as having opted or been selected for something.

In this case, the phrase "put down a wider line" would mean that the pen is causing something to be written and that the line that is put down is "set down in writing ... to enter or record in a written document."

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  • Would it be standard English to use "put down" in the context of painting traffic markings on pavement? – meatie Dec 29 '15 at 22:26
  • @meatie Normally you would just say painting. – Blubberguy22 Jan 11 '16 at 17:34

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