Monday, June 9, 2008

New Retronyms Appearing on a Regular Basis

I recently came across a word I had not previously heard of : retronym. With my linguistics background and the everyday familiarity of synonyms, homonyms, and antonyms, I was surprised that I had never heard this word.

A retronym is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the original meaning of the noun." adds a bit more detail to their definition by explaining that a retronym is "a word or phrase created because an existing term that was once used alone needs to be distinguished from a term referring to a new development, as acoustic guitar in contrast to electric guitar or analog watch in contrast to digital watch."

In addition to the guitar and watch examples here are some more retronyms to think about:

AM Radio
Bar Soap
Biological parent
Black-and-white television
Brick-and-mortar store, high street shop
Broadcast television
George H.W. Bush
Classical Music
Cloth diaper
Conventional War
Desktop computer
Field hockey
Forward slash
Hard disk
Hardback Book
Land Line
Manual transmission
Natural language
Orthodox Judaism
hard copy
Prop plane
Push lawnmower
Real numbers
Rotary telephone
Scalar processors
Sit-down restaurant
Snail mail
Snow skiing
Static electricity
Turn based strategy
Vinyl record
Whole milk

I guess we have technology to thank for retronymy.

1 comment:

mkpelland said...

I love this idea! Words are my favorite toys and I can mess with them for hours. The retronyms are fascinating. I hadn't thought of that as a class of words. I'll add ice tea and compact disk, floppy disk, and a myriad of other disks.

Visit anytime - one of these days we can do a simul-post. (BTW) I didn't edit your blog for grammar - it doesn't appear to need that!

Maryan Pelland

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