Endangered specie (coinages)

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 12 00:52:34 UTC 2012

"World War I" is probably a retronym, but "First World War," although it is often described as a retronym, need not have been one (one could have commented that the war beginning in 1914 was the first world war even before there was a war of 1939, and in fact this is what happened).

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Laurence Horn [laurence.horn at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 1:39 PM
Subject: Re: Endangered specie (coinages)

On Mar 10, 2012, at 12:08 PM, Larry Sheldon wrote:

> Endangered in the traditional sense, and in the sense of "if people
> don't stop saying...."
> Terms that bother me, either because they in and of themselves annoying,
> or because the antecedents are disappearing and the coinage actually has
> no meaning, like "clockwise" although that may be making a come-back.
> Annoying.
> "Acoustic" meaning not amplified--Facebook doubles-down with ads for
> "affordable acoustic guitar amps".  The parser blows a fuse every time I
> try to attach meaning to that.
> "Analog" meaning "not digital".  Thinking of a clock without digits is
> like thinking of one hand, clapping.  Several lifes back (I have been
> through the "get a life" thing several times) I worked on computers that
> did their work with gears, shafts, cams, and stuff.
> What does ..... mean?
> "Started out on a shoe string"  was a little dicey before Velcro....
> "Clockwise".
> "Home-made" seems only to be used by restaurants, home is for microwave
> and take-out (or delivered).
> [I'm new to the list and if I commit (or have committed) breaches of
> protocol or decorum, I am truly sorry and willing to try to learn.  I'm
> kind of a trial and error sort and I try to keep the ratio high, but I
> do recognize the risks of failure.]

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".  There's are also retronymic clones like "wood wood" in golf or boats or kitchen flooring (as opposed to fiberglass or other synthetic kinds), or "cheese cheese". Some of the earlier phrases or compounds mentioned on this thread qualify as retronyms, but obviously "anachronism" carves out a different territory and is equally useful.


> --
> Requiescas in pace o email           Two identifying characteristics
>                                        of System Administrators:
> Ex turpi causa non oritur actio      Infallibility, and the ability to
>                                        learn from their mistakes.
> ICBM Data:  http://g.co/maps/e5gmy        (Adapted from Stephen Pinker)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list