[Ads-l] retcon

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu May 13 09:37:40 EDT 2021


> On May 13, 2021, at 8:39 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> Thanks, Nancy. That prompts me to suggest a likely folk-etymology of the
> new sense, "to con retroactively."
> 
> I also prophesy a further sense, as in * "retconning the American people."
> 
> Watch this space.
> 
> JL

I would think Orwell (1984) was a significant influence here for the concept, although not the label. “We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia”.  (Or was it “We have always been at war with Eurasia?”)  Talk about putting the “con” in “retcon”… 
Elsewhere in the novel: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”. 

More innocent uses of the retcon in fiction are everywhere.  I was just reading a New Yorker piece on Proust in which Adam Gopnik points out how Combray, the town in "À la recherche du temps perdu” where the narrator grew up and to which he was transported back upon eating that madeleine, traveled frontward in the subsequent books:

"The town was based on Illiers, an hour outside Paris, though in later volumes Proust quietly moved Combray much farther north and east, so that it could participate in the battles of the Great War.”
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/05/10/what-we-find-when-we-get-lost-in-proust

LH


> 
> On Thu, May 13, 2021 at 8:09 AM Nancy Friedman <wordworking at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> I wrote about an earlier citation (1988) in a 2013 blog post:
>> 
>> https://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2013/12/word-of-the-week-retcon.html
>> 
>> On Thu, May 13, 2021, 3:46 AM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> 
>>> Charlie Sykes, MSNBC:
>>> 
>>> "They're trying to find a way to rationalize [Jan. 6]: 'Well, it wasn't
>> so
>>> bad.' This is called 'retconning' - you simply rewrite the history. You
>>> pretend that what happened didn't happen, and you put your own spin on
>> it."
>>> 
>>> OED: (1989):
>>> 
>>> "To revise retrospectively (an aspect of a fictional work or series),
>>> typically by means of a revelation which imposes a different
>> interpretation
>>> on previously described events."
>>> 
>>> It ain't just for fiction any more. And you don't need a "revelation."
>>> 
>>> Just lie.
>>> 
>>> JL
>>> 
>>> --
>>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
>> truth."
>>> 
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>> 
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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