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RETRONYM

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RETRONYM

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:59 pm

• retronym •

Pronunciation: re-trê-nim • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A phrase created to distinguish a term that was once used alone but now must be distinguished from a phrase based on the term that indicates a new development.

Notes: As modern technology makes finer and finer distinctions among the products we use in our lives, the words referring to those products must make finer and finer categorical distinctions. What was simply a book in my youth, today is a hardback book to distinguish it from a paperback book. Hardback book, then, is a retronym. Others include dead tree book (formerly book) vs. e-book, ice skates (formerly skates) vs. roller skates, whole milk (formerly just milk) vs. skim(med) milk.

In Play: This Good Word is a 'neologism', a new term that has not been accepted by all English dictionaries. Since there is no compelling reason we can see to talk about retronyms (they are just there), we are also not sanguine about its chances of survival. Retronyms themselves are not new, just the term is. Expressions like sighted person vs. blind person, a hearing person vs. a deaf person have been around for ages

Word History: Today's word was coined recently from the Latin adverb retro "backward" attached to our old friend, Greek onyma "name". Of course, combining a Latin with a Greek word to form a compound is not grammatically kosher. Using a 'nym to refer to a phrase rather than a word is roller skating on thin grammatical ice, too. These weaknesses only reinforce our doubts about the stick-to-it-iveness of today's word. But, then, odder words than this have made it through. (Our chief systems administrator, Andrew Shaffer, is disappointed that that this word is often omitted in discussions of 'nyms. We hope today's Good Word raises his spirits—and yours.)
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Slava » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:08 pm

I don't like the "dead tree" bit for books. I'd even go so far as to call it somewhat offensive.

I'm putting in my vote for "physibook", a book that exists in the physical world.

Any takers?
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:00 am

Depends mostly on the author, Slava.
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby MTC » Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:16 am

And let's not forget:

petronym: given name of your pet rock, e.g., Melvin

Our struggle to keep pace with technological change has produced another awkward word, skeuomorph: "an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material".

For example, on the Apple IPad, "stitched leather borders, ruled yellow legal paper, and torn-off page edges are imitations of similar features in physical binders." Other examples include faux wood on the side of a station wagon and molded screw heads on molded plastic forms.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph)
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:37 pm

Petronym...that's good. Very good. Anyone still have one around?
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:58 am

I am not sure about the chances of retronym in the English language, but the idea is important.

I also despise the dead tree book retronym. I prefer Slava's physibook. I use e-books sometimes so I can do research. The Gutenberg Project has a lot of free books on line. But for pleasant reading, nothing beats a paper book, unless it be a vellum book. Paper books have interesting and sometimes beautiful covers. They come in hard-back and paper-back (called perfect bound in the trade although I don't know what is perfect about it). Books have different smells according to the type of paper, the type of binding, the age and condition, etc. I like bookish smells. I love to find a book owned by one of my ancestors with comments and notes they put in the book. I took a book in Spanish off my shelf recently and discovered it was one of my mother's books. She had written something of a short diary in the blank pages at the front and the back. That was a find dear to me.

In the South we have some interesting retronyms. We have sweetmilk. Sweet milk is milk that has sugar in it, but sweetmilk distinguishes ordinary milk from buttermilk. In the same way we have sweettea. It is not the same as sweet tea which has sugar put in it after it has been iced. Sweettea is sugared when hot and is super saturated with sugar when iced. It is a Paula Deen thing.
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby call_copse » Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:54 am

I don't actually mind the dead tree retronym, finding it merely mildly humourous. I don't read e-books though and don't anticipate so doing in general, unless perhaps at work for work purposes, where some volumes come like that. I often get my dead tree books from a Librarian 1.0 (or analog librarian if you prefer).

Sweet tea and so forth completely perplex me, unless perhaps in the context of the nursery. Suitable cool drinks for a gentleman are surely limited to a) beer b) water (when thirsty). Perhaps proper beer is hard to obtain in the Southern US? :)
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:13 pm

As a teetotaler, I don't drink beer, sweet tea or sweettea. I do drink sweetmilk which is ordinary milk. Southerners drink buttermilk which the rest of humanity detests, abhors, abominates and despises. I understand that Texas beer is the absolute worst. My friends, who drink beer, drink Dos Equis, a Mexican beer. If you want a beer that is not really beer, just fetid cold water, drink that beer I shall not name, for fear of reprisal, from Colorado. I will not speak more about beer except that an English person would be hard pressed to find an American beer that he would deign to drink. Something that surprises me about England and Europe is that they don't drink cold drinks of any kind there. I was once refused service in a restaurant in Germany for asking for ice in my water. If you want water in Germany you must ask for "Wasser no Gas" and they wince when you ask for it. Waiters in England and Europe are wont to rebuff diners for asking for what is not customary. Customs vary. Unless you want a colossal sugar rush, don't drink sweettea.

I think many of us are singing off the same page when we prefer real books to e-books.
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:05 pm

If you haven't tried ebooks, don't knock em. I still mostly read paper books, fiction and bio from the library. But I have also read two or three dozen free or very cheap ebooks. You can also get generous samples, especially from Amazon which several times obviated the need to get the whole book. And my wife loves her Nook because she doesn't have to worry about lighting. Try it if you have a pad or smartphone. You might be surprised.

PS - I'm surprised at all the resistance to electronics on this forum. After all, the forum works just like an ebook that constantly updates itself!
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby call_copse » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:54 am

I could definitely see the advantage of ebooks if going on holiday for example - avoiding carrying too much weight. For me personally though I make my living in front of a screen. To read an ebook would be something of a busman's holiday.

I actually really enjoy American beers these days. Time was you only had undrinkables, however the likes of Dogfish Head and Brooklyn Breweries are sold over here and hold their own very well. I had a superb American brown ale just last night as it goes. The style for ale is generally very hopped and somewhat citrussy - you have to be in the mood, but there are some undeniably excellent choices now, stepping outside the mainstream at least.
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:54 pm

Actually I would never yet have bought an ebook had one not come on my ipad. Then I saw I could download a Nook and a Kindle free, and I'm a sucker for free. Further my library also has access to free online books, do you hear the operative word FREE here?
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Slava » Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:03 am

I have reconsidered my previous vote. Physibook may be a cute name, but I no longer feel it is appropriate. I now put my foot down and vote, unequivocally, for the original: BOOK. May all those other versions attempt to live up to this standard.
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Slava » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:36 am

I came to realize another one today: breakfast cereal. How many non-farmers out there think of cereal as anything other than what many Americans eat for breakfast?
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:20 am

My first profession was agriculture, but I never think of cereals as different kinds of grain unless I have my Laredo-made-alligator-weave-straw-farmer hat on. "Breakfast cereal" is eaten at other meals and for a snack?
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Re: RETRONYM

Postby Slava » Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:06 pm

I just came across a new-to-me retronym for book.

Crushed-tree sandwich.
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