A Word For Today — Retronym

I have on occasion written about the English language, especially how it morphs to keep up with changing times.  Today I have another example —

The relentless advance of technology has necessitated the creation of a new word — retronym.  Google it, and you get this definition —

  1. a new term created from an existing word in order to distinguish it from the meaning that has emerged through progress or technological development (e.g., cloth diaper is a retronym necessitated by the fact that diaper now more commonly refers to a disposable diaper).

If you think about it, the use of retronyms has become indispensable in our modern lives.  “Same-sex marriage” is a recent edition, but “microwave oven” has been with us long enough to be completely taken for granted.  Ditto “acoustic guitar”, “paperback book”, and “manual typewriter”.  I’m sure you can think of other examples.

It’s another way we have to modify our language to be able to communicate in an ever-more-complex world.


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