Endangered specie (coinages)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Mar 10 20:22:08 UTC 2012

On Mar 10, 2012, at 2:46 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> On Sat, Mar 10, 2012 at 1:39 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> No breaches of protocol or decorum, but a useful term we've kicked around
>> here (due apparently to Joseph Mankiewicz, and popularized by his friend
>> William Safire in the latter's "On Language" columns for the N. Y. Times
>> Magazine) is "retronym".  The locus classicus (or one of them, anyway) was
>> "acoustic guitar", or maybe "analog(ue) watch", but many others have popped
>> up over the years, due to technological and/or social progress (or
>> "progress").  A few of my favorites are "biological mother", "World War I",
>> "terrestrial radio", "human translation", "white milk", "able-bodied
>> Olympics", and "human poll".
> It's actually Frank Mankiewicz,

Oops. I had the feeling that I was mixing up my Mankiewiczes, and not for the first time. It turns out, now that I'm checking the Wikipedia a bit late, that Joseph (the director of All About Eve) is the brother of Herman (the writer of Citizen Kane and, as Ben notes, the father of Herman, which makes Herman the grandfather of "retronym").   All I can do is cry uncle.


> son of screenwriter Herman, who's credited with
> coining "retronym". I had the opportunity to meet him a couple of days ago at
> the NEH press conference celebrating the completion of DARE, at which Joan
> Houston Hall and I spoke. He was invited to share the story about how, after
> his friend Bill Safire introduced him to DARE, he used it to clear up some
> confusion about the word "commode" in a congressional investigation of
> government expenditures. (It turned out the $1,200 that Stanford president
> Donald Kennedy spend on an "Italian fruitwood commode" was for a chest of
> drawers, not a toilet.)
> I spoke with him a bit about retronyms afterwards, and the first one that he
> recalled noticing was "natural grass" at the beginning of baseball's Astroturf
> era. "Acoustic guitar" was also in the first batch he provided Safire in 1980,
> along with "hard-cover book", "manual transmission", "fresh squeezed orange
> juice", and "stage play".
> Coverage of the NEH/DARE press conference here:
> http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/08/usa-dictionary-idUSL2E8E8DL720120308
> http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-03-09/news/bal-a-distinctively-american-dictionary-20120309_1_frederic-cassidy-oxford-english-dictionary-joan-houston-hall
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> http://benzimmer.com/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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