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Whatchamacallit 19: My Two-Hole Punch

My two-hole punch

Ordnung muss sein. | Order is essential.

One thing Germans are famous for is paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

All of this is followed by filing – most German apartments have at least one bookcase filled with binders, each binder filled with hundreds of documents documenting everything.

Each one of those documents has two holes in it: whether it come straight from the bank with holes in it (wonderful) or if you need to put the holes into it yourself.

The latter, of course, requires a two-hole punch – and this one normally lives in my hallway bookcase, next to the pile of documents awaiting filing. For the moment, it has migrated to the living-room/home-office where it is seeing a bit more action than normal due to some personal document generation.

I remember the first time I learned about two-hole punches – it was back in Bloomington at Indiana University. The office I was working in had a guest from Germany. One day she popped out of her office obviously looking for something – so I asked if I could help.

“Where I can I find a two-hole punch?,” she asked.

“Uhhh… are you sure you don’t want a three-hole punch,” I replied.

She returned to her office, opened the binder, looked at it, and said, “oh! A three-hole punch.”

In an American office it is easy enough to find a three-hole punch and I handed one to her.

At least it was easy when I left America – I imagine that with fewer physical documents being created, it is not needed as frequently.

In this moment, although I already knew that Europeans used something called “A4 Paper,” I suddenly understood that my experienced American standard of three rings might not actually be universal – that two rings was indeed a legitimate possibility.

After moving to Europe, at my first office, I had a two-hole punch on my desk. It was actually a crappy version of a two-hole punch: the paper measuring arm came out the top and not the bottom, which means that to align papers you had to align them upside down. The way the one that I bought for myself – with the arm coming out of the bottom, is much, much better.


During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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