Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Retronyms

Retronyms are the words invented for "old things" when the word previously used for that thing has become identified with "new things."  Mental Floss explains:

In 1980, Frank Mankiewicz—then president of National Public Radio—coined the word "retronym," for a term specifying the original meaning of word after a newer meaning has overtaken it. The term was popularized by New York Times “On Language” columnist William Safire in a 1992 column, where the writer wondered what people would call “regular mail” after the advent of email (snails didn’t come up). Retronyms had been used long before 1980, though; here are a few of them.

So, "quill pens" were once simply "pens" and "silent films" were "films." No one needed to speak of "land lines" before cellular phones. In 1860, "live music" would have been an oxymoron.

What will be the "retronym" for that kind of marriage between a husband and wife?

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